KHARTOUM, Sudan - Sudan dropped almost completely off the Internet on Wednesday as riots over the lifting of fuel subsidies entered their third day and protesters battled security forces in the capital.
Renesys Corp., a company that maps the pathways of the Internet, said it could not confirm whether the blackout was government-orchestrated. But the cut recalls a similarly dramatic outage in Egypt, Sudan's neighbor, when authorities shut off Internet access during that country's 2011 uprising.
"It's either a government-directed thing or some very catastrophic technological failure that just happens to coincide with violent riots happening in the city," said senior analyst Doug Madory. He said it was almost a "total blackout."
Protesters burn tires and close the highway to northern cities amid a wave of unrest over the lifting of fuel subsidies by the Sudanese government, in Kadro, 15 miles (24.14 kilometers) north of downtown Khartoum, Wednesday. Sudan's loss of its main oil-producing territory with the independence of South Sudan in 2011 was a punch to its fragile economy.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said it was alarmed by the reports of what seemed like an official attempt to stifle coverage, and called on the government to restore the country's connection.
A police statement said three people have died in three days of rioting over the lifting of fuel subsidies - two in the town of Wad Medani south of Khartoum, and one in the Omdurman district of the capital.
In northern Khartoum, Sudanese security forces fired tear gas to disperse dozens of protesters who demonstrated and torched a police station.
Wednesday's protests took place in several areas of Kadro district, 15 miles (25 kilometers) from the capital's city center, where protesters blocked roads using lengths of pipe and burning tires.