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Syria

Two-day Internet blackout ends in Syria

Internet and telephone services are back up and running in Syria's capital, Damascus, after a two-day blackout. President Bashar Assad's regime has denied accusations it was behind the latest communications cut.

Internet and telephone connections were returned to Damascus and the central city of Homs on Saturday, two days after connections were cut.

"Internet is back in Damascus and in parts of Damascus province," a correspondent for the news agency AFP reported. It remains unclear whether the Internet is now running nationwide, although, according to the Britain-based activist group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, connectivity has returned to most provinces.

The US companies Akamai and Renesys first reported that Syrian internet activity had ground almost to a halt as of 12:26 p.m. local time (1026 GMT) on Thursday. It was later reported that telephone connections had also been affected.

Experts have blamed the outage on the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. His government has been accused of cutting Internet and telephone communications on a number of occasions since the rebel uprising began some 20 months ago.

But, confirming the return of connectivity on Saturday, state news agency SANA reported that the outage had been due to maintenance. "All communication lines are back up in Damascus after maintenance works were completed," the agency reported."

Syrian authorities had previously blamed the latest cut on either "terrorist" activity or a technical fault.

Damascus under fire

Meanwhile, fighting raged on across Syria on Saturday. Regime forces reportedly shelled several villages on the outskirts of the capital in an attempt to secure areas surrounding the key Damascus airport.

The violence has prompted several airlines to suspend their flights to and from Damascus over the past two days.

Separate clashes were also reported in the provinces of Homs, Deir al-Zor, Idlib and Syria's second city Aleppo. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights at least 14 rebels were killed in fighting near an air base southwest of the city.

At least 41,000 people are believed to have been killed since fighting erupted in Syria in March last year.

ccp/mkg (AFP, Reuters)