A diver in the Mediterranean sea
A diver in the Mediterranean seaAFP file

The Egyptian military has arrested three scuba divers accused of cutting an undersea Internet cable off the coast of the northern city of Alexandria.

The three individuals had been spotted on board a small boat and attempted to flee ashore, but the navy eventually caught up and arrested them, the Egyptian military announced on its Facebook page.

Pictures of three men with their hands bound were posted on the website, but there were no other details about their identity or about possible motives for the act of sabotage, the AFP news agency reported.

Three oxygen tanks were found aboard the boat but the divers' wetsuits were thought to have been thrown into the sea, the statement said.

Under questioning, the captured men claimed they had cut the cable by mistake, Alexandria's security director Amin Ezz al-Din said, according to the MENA news agency.

The men said they were salvaging shipwrecks to sell when they spotted the cable and tried to take it, he said.

The navy had been acting on information from Telecom Egypt, which reported that the SMW-4 undersea cable that provides broadband Internet to the country had been cut.

The arrests come after many Internet users in Egypt reported service disruptions during the past few days.

In 2008, severed underwater cables disrupted Internet access in Egypt and several other countries.