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Syria's Internet goes dark for several hours

In a he-said she-said scenario, it's unclear who or what is responsible for the sustained blackout.

A sustained Internet outage affected nearly the entire country on Thursday. Renesys

After a more than seven-hour blackout, it appears the Internet has returned to Syria.

On Thursday morning several Internet monitoring firms began reporting a halt of online traffic in and out of the war-torn country. While it was clear something was amiss, it was unclear who or what was causing the outage.

In the past, divergent players such as the online hacking collective Anonymous or the Syrian Electronic Army -- a President Bashar Assad loyalist group -- have waged attacks on the country's Internet. However, Thursday's outage appears to have two different sources.

First, a group calling itself the "European Cyber Army" claimed responsibility by posting a message on Pastebin. The group claimed to have waged the attack in retaliation for hacks by the Syrian Electronic Army on US and European Web sites over the past year.

"As you may or may not have noticed Syria was wiped off the face of the Internet!," the group wrote on Thursday. "SEA is a grave threat...A threat that must be neutralized before it spreads like a disease!"

The second group taking the blame was the Syrian government. In a message posted on the country's state-owned Syrian Arab News Agency, the government claimed, "regional and international communications and Internet network were cut off in all the provinces due to a breakdown in the optical fiber cable."

It's unclear which of these two scenarios actually caused the blackout. The outage started early this morning and affected nearly the entire country, according to Internet monitoring firm Renesys. The only link able to reach Syria was TurkTelecom, which was able to power up the country's largest city Aleppo. Akamai showed the same type of disruption.

"Today's blackout in Syria is not surprising," Renesys wrote in a tweet. "Renesys rates Syria at 'severe risk' of disconnection."

This isn't the first time Syria has been yanked offline. In November 2012, a massive outage shut down not only all access to the Web but also phone lines. And last May, a similar breakdown in communications occurred when Internet, mobile, and landline networks became inaccessible countrywide.

(Via The Washington Post).