© Associated PressAn Egyptian riot policeman fires at protesters in Suez, Egypt Thursday, Jan. 27, 2011. Egyptian activists protested for a third day as social networking sites called for a mass rally in the capital Cairo after Friday prayers, keeping up the momentum of the country's largest anti-government protests in years.
Cairo - Internet service in Egypt was disrupted and the government deployed an elite special operations force in Cairo on Friday, hours before an anticipated new wave of anti-government protests.
The developments were a sign that President Hosni Mubarak's regime was toughening its crackdown following the biggest protests in years against his nearly 30-year rule.
The counter-terror force, rarely seen on the streets, took up positions in strategic locations, including central Tahrir Square, site of the biggest demonstrations this week.
Facebook and Twitter have helped drive this week's protests. But by Thursday evening, those sites were disrupted, along with cell phone text messaging and BlackBerry
Messenger services. Then the Internet went down.
Earlier, the grass-roots movement got a double boost - the return of Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei and the backing of the biggest opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood.