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U.S. Bans Electronic Devices in Cabins on Flights From Some Middle Eastern Countries on Terror Fears

from The Wall Street Journal,

Rules affect airlines flying from Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

U.S. officials banned passengers from carrying most electronics larger than a cellphone into the cabin on direct flights arriving from eight countries in the Middle East and North Africa. The restrictions apply to flights that nine foreign airlines operate directly from 10 airports in the affected countries, officials said. Devices including laptops, tablets and cameras will need to be checked in, though cellphones will be allowed on board. The rules affect airlines flying to the U.S. from Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. No U.S. airlines are affected because they don’t directly serve the airports subject to the restrictions. The Department of Homeland Security said the ban is a response to “evaluated intelligence,” but didn’t provide details. The prohibition is open-ended and takes effect Tuesday, but airlines will have 96 hours to implement it. Dubai-based Emirates, one of the airlines affected, said in a statement the order comes into effect on Saturday (March 25) and is valid through Oct. 14. It was unclear if it could be extended. “We have reason to be concerned about attempts by terrorist groups to circumvent aviation security and terrorist groups continue to target aviation interests,” the department said. “The record of terrorist attempts to destroy aircraft in flight is longstanding and well-known.”

The instructions come at a time of heightened concern about terrorist threats to air travel. Attackers have repeatedly sought to hide explosive devices in electronic equipment and other items to smuggle them past security checks to bring down planes. Al Qaeda has regularly published bomb-making advice in online journals and chat rooms to make the information on how to bring down planes widely available. But the move also follows early attempts by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration to enforce a controversial travel ban restricting many U.S.-bound travelers from a handful of Muslim-majority countries that Washington has deemed a particular terrorism risk. That effort—currently facing legal challenges in U.S. courts and not yet implemented in its latest form—has sown widespread uncertainty over travel generally to the U.S., especially from the Middle East. The airlines and airports affected by the new restrictions on electronic devices are based or located in different countries to the ones affected by the earlier travel ban. They include airlines from traditional U.S. security and economic allies, including Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. By targeting those countries’ flag carriers, the move could further raise tensions between Washington and Middle East capitals over the Trump administration’s U.S. travel policies.

Abu Dhabi’s airport is already one of a handful of international airports to offer facilities where U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers conduct preclearance immigration checks on passengers flying to the U.S. “As per new rules introduced by U.S. authorities, the civil aviation authority of Saudi Arabia will not allow laptops or electronic devices in cabins,” the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs said early Tuesday. Several other airlines affected, including Emirates, the world’s largest by international traffic, confirmed receipt of the order, but didn’t comment further.

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