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US tightens rules on Middle East air cargo after 2017 Australia bomb plot

© AFP/File | Loading cargo in Qatar's Hamad International Airport: the Doha airport is one of seven in five Middle Eastern countries that face tougher inspections of US-bound cargo due to an elevated threat of attacks against commercial aviation

WASHINGTON (AFP) - 

The United States has ordered more stringent inspections of air cargo from five Middle East countries, citing a June 2017 attempt in Australia to bring down a plane as evidence that extremist groups continue to target civilian aviation.

The Transportation Security Administration said Monday it had ordered seven airports in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to provide advance data on US-bound air cargo to US Customs and Border Protection for vetting before the cargo is loaded.

The agency did not cite any new specific threat for the move.

"The persistent threat to aviation calls for the world to raise the baseline on global aviation security across the spectrum," it said.

"These countries were chosen because of a demonstrated intent by terrorist groups to attack aviation from them."

TSA also pointed to Australian security officials' foiling of an advanced plot by three men with ties to the Islamic State group last June to bring down an aircraft with an improvised explosive device.

"The incident in Australia that occurred this past summer was an ominous reminder for TSA and all of our aviation partners, to include cargo carriers, that we need to continue our efforts to keep our skies secure," TSA said.

Last year US counterterrorism chief Nick Rasmussen said the Australia plot "shows that terrorists are aware of security procedures. They watch what we do and they try to learn from it."

© 2018 AFP