The internet and all mobile communications from the people of Egypt have been shut down in what is clearly a key part of the Mubarak regime’s preparations to crack down on the democracy protesters:

Mona Eltahawy (@monaeltahawy) has just sent:

RT @Dima_Khatib show this video to ur media & politicians http://apne.ws/hgEg4d Internet in #Egypt cut 10 min after its transmission #jan25

The video referred to is from the AP and can be viewed here – it shows an unarmed protester being shot.

CNN just interviewed a protester who described how he was arrested and seriously beaten. “Ahmed” (not his real name) went on to say:

We can’t understand how the leader of the free world is looking the other way as we call for freedom”

Perhaps Ahmed was thinking of this comment by VP Joe Biden made on PBS Newshour this evening:

Ahead of a day that could prove decisive, NewsHour host Jim Lehrer asked Biden if the time has “come for President Mubarak of Egypt to go?” Biden answered: “No. I think the time has come for President Mubarak to begin to move in the direction that – to be more responsive to some… of the needs of the people out there.”

Asked if he would characterize Mubarak as a dictator Biden responded: “Mubarak has been an ally of ours in a number of things. And he’s been very responsible on, relative to geopolitical interest in the region, the Middle East peace efforts; the actions Egypt has taken relative to normalizing relationship with – with Israel. … I would not refer to him as a dictator.”

While Obama and his administration continue to back the dictator, we can do more. Call the White House now at 202-456-1111 and keep calling.

Tomorrow there are calls for massive demonstrations in the streets throughout Egypt following Friday prayers. Not only the youth led opposition we have seen in the streets the past few days, but more organized movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood have announced their support for the planned marches and the newly returned Mohammed ElBaradei has said he and his supporters will join as well.

Along with the shutdown of the internet, reports are building that the regime is rounding up activists and leaders in advance of the marches – and the Mubarak regime has said that no protests will be allowed.

Friday’s rallies in Egypt are expected to be the biggest so far, with people being urged via internet sites to join the protests after attending prayers.

Late on Thursday, the Facebook and Twitter social websites had been disrupted along with mobile phone messaging, followed by loss of many internet services.

Associated Press news agency reported that the elite special operations counterterrorism force, which is rarely seen on the streets, had been deployed to key locations in Cairo, including Tahrir Square, where earlier protests have been held.

Egypt’s interior ministry has warned it will take “decisive measures” against the protesters.

One group in the UK managing to stay in contact with Egypt just posted:

It’s now 3 am in the morning in Egypt. Hundreds of political activists are being arrested from their homes at this moment in a very large scale operation. Almost all leaders of Muslim brotherhood are confirmed arrested. More reports that Police agents are pouring petrol in the streets of main squares to set them on fire during protest. Please act.

And Zeinobia sent the following before the blackout:

If there is a communication blackout in Egypt , plz shower the Egyptian embassies with faxes and phones , call them names

We can act – we can call on the White House (202-456-1111) to stop supporting the Mubarak regime and demand protection for the Egyptian people who are simply calling for democracy. Please call the White House now – and again tomorrow. And then call the Egyptian embassy ((202) 895-5400).