Underwater phone and internet links to the Shetlands ‘were severed by fishing boat dragging its anchor’

  • Major incident in Shetland Islands during early hours of yesterday morning 
  • SHEFA-2 communications link was cut, disrupting phone and internet links
  • Fears Russia was behind attack thought to have been caused by a fishing boat
  • The incident came just weeks after sabotage of the Nord Stream gas pipelines 

Damage to North Sea cables which cut off phone and internet links and raised fears of Russian espionage is thought to have been caused by a fishing boat, it emerged last night.

A major incident was declared in the remote Shetland Islands after the SHEFA-2 communications link was cut in the early hours of yesterday morning.

Commentators speculated Russia may have been behind the attack, as part of its playbook of hybrid warfare operations.

The incident came just weeks after the sabotage of the Nord Stream gas pipelines, which was widely blamed on the Kremlin. And only days earlier, another undersea cable near the Shetlands and the Faroe Islands was damaged.

Residents were warned not to attempt non-urgent calls in order to retain capacity for emergency communications.

A major incident was declared in the remote Shetland Islands (pictured) after the SHEFA-2 communications link was cut in the early hours of yesterday morning 

Residents were warned not to attempt non-urgent calls in order to retain capacity for emergency communications. Pictured: Town of Scalloway in the Shetland Islands

Shops were prevented from accepting card payments and island police stepped up foot patrols to reassure residents.

Orkney and Shetlands MP Alistair Carmichael raised the issue with the Government and called for the cables to be better protected. 

Northern Police tweeted: ‘Engineers are working to fix a complete outage on Shetland affecting its connection to the main line. Phones, internet and computers are not usable. Officers will continue to patrol the area and we will give you an update on the situation as soon as we have more information.’

Earlier this year the Chief of the Defence Staff, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, warned that Russia could attempt to cripple the network of cables on the sea bed that are responsible for 97 per cent of international communications.

Northern Police announced that engineers had been deployed to try and fix the outage on Shetland

But last night, it was thought a UK-registered fishing boat had accidentally ripped up the cables, which are sheathed in plastic and steel.

The vessel is thought to have inadvertently dragged its anchor along the sea bed, ripping the cables apart.

A Government spokesman said last night: ‘We are aware of temporary interruption to Shetland Islands telecommunications services. We are working to support the quickest possible restoration and the welfare of residents.’

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