Mobile internet disrupted in Mauritania following prison break

Network data confirm a nation-scale disruption to mobile internet traffic in Mauritania from Monday morning 10 a.m. 6 March 2023. The incident comes as authorities launch a search for four high-risk prisoners held under terror and treason charges who staged a prison riot and escape in Nouakchott on Sunday night. Service has been restored as of afternoon Sunday 12 March 2023 after the prisoners were reported apprehended or killed.

Metrics show that mobile internet has been cut, while rarely used fixed-line service remains available, corroborating user reports of outages on the country’s three mobile operators. This class of disruption cannot be readily worked around using VPN services.

What’s happening in Mauritania?

On Sunday night a prison riot took place at the Nouakchott Civil Prison in the capital’s Tevragh Zeina district, leading to the killing of two guards and the escape of four prisoners, including two condemned to death and others awaiting trial under terrorism and treason charges.

Authorities responded by implementing a localised lockdown, which was extended regionally. Mobile internet was shut down locally per reports, subsequently extending to national scale.

The Islamic Republic of Mauritania has a prior history of internet shutdowns and censorship, including the use of mobile network disruptions. In June 2019 Mauritania imposed a mobile internet blackout followed by a total internet shutdown during contested elections.

NetBlocks recommends against the use of internet shutdowns due to their disproportionate impact on the public’s right to freely access and impart knowledge.

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This report uses third-party internet measurement data from the "Google Transparency" data source. Learn more about the NetBlocks TPD program and integrations.

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