A Russian cybermilitia has knocked the central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan off the Internet, a security researcher said today, in the latest manifestation of digital warfare.

Since Jan. 18, the country of 5.3 million has come under a massive cyber-attack, according to Don Jackson, director of threat intelligence at Atlanta security firm SecureWorks Inc.

The denial-of-service attack -- which swamps Web sites with so many hits that they are forced to shut down -- has targeted the two main Internet service providers in the country, which account for more than 80% of Kyrgyzstan's bandwidth, according to Mr. Jackson.

The attacks, which are ongoing, have knocked most of the country offline and disrupted e-mail to and from a U.S. air base there, Jackson said.

We are concerned about this in terms of our own readiness and preparedness, said Mr. Jackson, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The attacks have hallmarks of a similar one last August against the country of Georgia by Russian and ethnic Russian hackers.

They're from the same network [of IP addresses] that we associated with the cybermilitia last year, Jackson added.

Less than 20% of the Kyrgyz population is online; such an attack would have a bigger impact on the economy of a place like the U.S., with nearly 75% of the country online, according to internetworldstats.com.

A spokesman at the Russian embassy in Washington couldn't be reached for comment.

The Kyrgyz government couldn't be reached for comment. U.S. officials couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

Theories for the reason behind the current attack in Kyrgyzstan center on the U.S. use of an air base in the country to help with its military operations in Afghanistan. Another theory is that the attack was directed at the fledgling Kyrgyz opposition movement, which has used the Internet to express its discontent.