Internet connectivity and telecommunications in Chad were disrupted following a deadly attack on the country’s internal security agency.

Since Wednesday, internet traffic in the country dropped to 20% of its normal levels, according to the internet monitoring organization NetBlocks. Internet service providers likely affected by the outage include SudaChad and Societe-Digital, according to IODA, another organization that analyzes internet outages.

Chad, which has been under military rule for the last three years, faces increased political tensions ahead of a presidential election in May and June that could mark the return to constitutional rule. Unrest in the country’s capital, N’Djamena, occurred a day after the election date was announced

Security forces in Chad accused the country’s main opposition party of launching an attack on its National Security Agency. Several people, including Chadian opposition politician Yaya Dillo, were killed during the clashes on Wednesday.

A local witness told Reuters that by Thursday morning, the unrest had calmed down and residents could return to work, although internet access still had not been restored.

Chad has a long history of using internet restrictions to manage public narratives during political crises and security incidents.

Organizations like NetBlocks, Internet Sans Frontières and Access Now have reported a combined figure of 911 days of internet disruptions between Chad’s presidential election in 2016 and 2021.

“We have seen in the last five years, a close link between internet cuts and Chad’s important moments of political dispute. These disruptions impacting all internet users undermine freedom of expression,” said Abdoulaye Diarra, a researcher at Amnesty International.

In 2021, connectivity in the country was disrupted amid reports of a deadly armed raid at Dillo’s residence. At that time, the outage affected major cellular networks, including Airtel and Tigo, as well as some fixed-line services.

In 2020, Chad’s authorities temporarily restricted access to the WhatsApp messaging service to prevent the alleged “dissemination of messages of incitement to hatred and division,” according to the country’s Minister of Communication. Between 2018 and 2019, Chad blocked social networks and several media outlets for over a year.

“Given the political, economic and social context that Chad is facing, authorities should refrain from blocking access to the internet and ensure the right to freedom of opinion and expression before, during and after the presidential election,” Amnesty International said in a statement.

“Disrupting internet access during crises not only hinders the free flow of information but also exacerbates the spread of misinformation, putting people’s lives at risk,” said Access Now.

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