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Thousands of students will retake their Baccalaureate examinations Sean Gallup/Getty

Algeria temporarily blocked social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter from late Saturday (18 June) to prevent exam fraud. Leaked online examination papers forced thousands of high school students to take their final exams again.

Around 555,177 students will retake their Baccalaureate exams and the social media networks will remain inaccessible to millions of Algerians across the country until the last test on Thursday (23 June) is finished, a telecom source told AFP.

The Ministry of Post, Information Technology and Communication said: "The cut in social media is directly related to the partial baccalaureate exams that are taking place on Sunday. This is to protect students from the publication of false papers for these exams."

The Ministry of National Education was quoted by Al Jazeera as saying: "All measures have been taken to ensure the smooth running of the exams, in collaboration with other sectors concerned, namely the National Police, National Gendarmerie, Civil Protection and Health authorities." The ministry added that other parts of internet were not affected.

However, on Sunday (19 June) some users said they could not access websites like Google and 3G mobile network disruptions were also reported.

Dozens of people including officials from national education centres and printers were arrested earlier this month on suspicions of leaking final exam papers.

Information Technology expert Younes Grar told AFP: "The authorities have chosen the simplest solution. The decision to block social networks penalises millions of internet users."

According to official statistics, around 18 million users in the country are active on the internet and social media.

Nouria Benghebrit, the education minister, burst into tears in public when she was told of the online paper leak.

Algeria's state-run APS news agency reported on 7 June that cybercrime investigators had located people who published exam material on social networks and those who aided the leak.