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Syria appears to have begun shutting off internet links to the rest of the world.

Approximately two-thirds of all Syrian networks became unreachable by Friday afternoon as part of a process that began early in the morning. Routes to 40 of 59 networks were withdrawn from the global routing tables, leaving the internet in Syria restricted to state-owned SyriaTel, web monitoring firm Renesys reports.

Syrian government websites remain reachable, if sluggish, while the web infrastructure of the rest of the country remains dark. SyriaTel's 3G mobile data networks, and smaller independent ISPs including Sawa, INET, and Runnet have effectively been unplugged.

A submarine cable from Cyprus supplies the majority of Syria's external telecommunications links.

Syria is in the midst of an uprising that began in January and has been accompanied by a bloody crackdown against protesters by the autocratic al-Assad regime. It could be that the brownout of Syrian internet connections represents an attempt by authorities to frustrate attempts by opposition groups from exchanging information and co-ordinating action.

Infowar Monitor reported that Syria had recently established a team of pro-government cyberhackers, tasked with hacking and otherwise disrupting opposition websites. The activities of the Syrian Electronic Army are akin to those of Iranian Cyber Army. The Syrian Electronic Army is the first group of its type in the Arab world. Whether or not the group is behind the shutdown is anybody's guess but without access to the web the online battlefield SEA was supposed to be fighting on has effectively been removed from play. ®

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