Undersea Data Cables Damaged in Red Sea Amidst Heightened Tensions

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Source: middleeasteye

Reports have emerged of significant damage to undersea data cables in the Red Sea, raising concerns about the disruption of internet connectivity in the region. The damage comes months after Yemeni Houthi rebels issued threats to target such infrastructure.

At least 15 submarine cables traverse the Bab al-Mandab Strait, a vital maritime route located at the southern end of the Red Sea. The strait, just 26 kilometers wide at certain points, serves as a crucial passage for international shipping, with Yemen lining its northern shore.

Initial reports of cable damage surfaced on Monday morning, with Israeli news outlet Globes identifying four affected cables: EIG, AAE-1, Seacom, and TGN-EA. Seacom, one of the cable operators, has confirmed damage to a segment between Kenya and Egypt.

“The location of the cable break is significant due to its geopolitical sensitivity and ongoing tensions, making it a challenging environment for maintenance and repair operations,” stated Seacom. The company is currently devising restoration plans and is committed to informing its clients accordingly.

While Globes attributed the outages to the Iran-backed Houthis, Seacom assured customers that alternate cable routes are being utilized to mitigate the impact. However, the repair process is expected to be complex due to the scarcity of available cable repair ships and the heightened regional tensions.

The Houthis have been linked to previous attacks on civilian and military vessels in the Red Sea, particularly following escalations in the conflict between Israel and Hamas. Consequently, some shipping companies have opted to avoid the Red Sea, resulting in extended shipping times and disruptions to supply chains.

In addition to the cable damage, internet access in Djibouti, situated on the southern shore of the Bab al-Mandab Strait, experienced disruptions on Sunday and Monday. Reports from internet monitoring firm NetBlocks and other sources indicate broader issues with Red Sea cables, though the precise timing of the incident remains disputed.

While speculation swirls about the perpetrators of the cable damage, experts are divided on the capabilities of groups like the Houthis to execute such operations. Rear Admiral John Gower and former Royal Navy Commander Tom Sharpe both expressed skepticism about the group’s capacity, suggesting that a more sophisticated actor, such as Iran, could be involved.

International concern over the security of undersea cables has been mounting, with the European Commission recently urging member states to bolster protections for these critical infrastructure assets.

As investigations into the incident continue, stakeholders are closely monitoring developments amid fears of further disruptions to global connectivity and regional stability in the Red Sea area.

Sri Lanka Guardian

The Sri Lanka Guardian is an online web portal founded in August 2007 by a group of concerned Sri Lankan citizens including journalists, activists, academics and retired civil servants. We are independent and non-profit. Email: editor@slguardian.org

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