Egypt plunged into chaos on Friday when tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Cairo and other major cities to demand the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak. Some of them clashed with security forces, killing at least five people and injuring more than 800 others.
"The U.S. Department of State alerts U.S. citizens to ongoing political and social unrest in Egypt," a statement from the U.S. State Department said in issuing a travel alert for the nation. "Violent demonstrations on Jan 28 took place in several areas of Cairo and other parts of the country, disrupting road travel between city centers and airports. Disruptions in communications included the interruption of internet and mobile telephone service."
Earlier on Friday, ahead of the protests, Egyptian authorities basically 'shut down' the Internet and suspended all mobile services. Many websites based in Egypt were unavailable in what is described to be an action 'unprecedented' in Internet history.
Reports said the Egyptian government had ordered Internet service providers to shut down connections to the Internet, except the Noor Group which continued to offer Internet services to its customers. However, most of the country has no access to the Noor Group.
The U.S. government said it urges American citizens to defer all non-essential travel to Egypt at this time and advised U.S. citizens currently in Egypt to defer non-essential movement and to exercise caution. The travel alert, less serious than a travel warning, expired on Feb 28.
"In the event of demonstrations, U.S. citizens in Egypt should remain in their residences or hotels until the situation stabilizes," the travel alert said. "Security forces may block off the area around the U.S. Embassy during demonstrations, and U.S. citizens should not attempt to come to the U.S. Embassy or the Tahrir Square area at such times." The website of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo was also offline on Friday.