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US, UK restrict carry-on electronics on flights from some Muslim-majority countries

John Moore, Getty Images North America, AFP | This file photo taken on January 26, 2014 shows a traveller walking through Terminal C of the LaGuardia Airport in New York

The United States imposed restrictions on carry-on electronic devices aboard flights from some Muslim-majority countries on Tuesday, with the United Kingdom announcing a similar ban shortly after in response to an unspecified terrorist threat.


President Donald Trump’s administration imposed restrictions on planes coming to the United States from eight Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

The UK later announced similar restriction for direct inbound flights from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, and Saudi Arabia.

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said passengers travelling from those airports could not bring devices larger than a cellphone, such as tablets, portable DVD players, laptops and cameras, into the main cabin. Instead, they must be placed in checked baggage.

The airports affected by the US ban include those in Cairo, Egypt; Istanbul, Turkey; Kuwait City, Kuwait; Doha, Qatar; Casablanca, Morocco; Amman, Jordan; Riyadh and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; and Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

US officials said Trump’s new policy had nothing to do with recent efforts to impose a travel ban on six majority-Muslim nations. A DHS spokeswoman said the government “did not target specific nations. We relied upon evaluated intelligence to determine which airports were affected”.

No details on security threat

The new restrictions were prompted by reports that militant groups are looking to smuggle explosive devices in electronic gadgets, Trump administration officials told reporters in a conference call on Monday.

They did not provide further details on the threat.

Under the new UK restrictions, passengers will be required to stow any phones, laptops or tablets over 16 cm in length, 9.3 cm in width and 1.5 cm in depth in their checked luggage.

“We think these steps are necessary and proportionate to allow passengers to travel safely,” a spokesman for UK conservative Prime Minister Theresa May told reporters.


Turkey calls for ban to be reversed

Turkey responded to the US ban on Tuesday by saying it would ask the United States to reverse its decision.

"We particularly emphasise how this will not benefit the passenger and that reverse steps or a softening should be adopted," Turkish Transport Minister Ahmet Arslan told reporters.

In total, approximately 50 flights a day will be affected by the US policy.

The impacted carriers – Royal Jordanian Airlines, Egypt Air, Turkish Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Kuwait Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad Airways – have until Friday to comply with the new policy, which took effect early on Tuesday and will be in place indefinitely.

The policy does not affect any American carriers, because none fly directly to the United States from the airports in the eight Muslim-majority countries, officials said.

Officials did not explain why the restrictions only apply to travellers arriving in the United States and not for those same flights when they leave the United States.

Crew members exempt

Homeland Security said the procedures would “remain in place until the threat changes” and did not rule out expanding them to other airports.

The US government said it is “concerned about terrorists’ ongoing interest in targeting commercial aviation, including transportation hubs over the past two years”.

Reuters reported Monday that the move had been under consideration since the US government learned of a threat several weeks ago.


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