US bans electronics on flights from 8 Muslim countries

Washington: Passengers headed to the US from eight Muslim-majority countries and North Africa have been barred from carrying electronic devices larger than a cellphone under a new flight restriction enacted on Tuesday by the Trump administration.

Officials said the directive was an attempt to address gaps in foreign airport security, and said it was not based on any specific or credible threat of an imminent attack, the New York Times reported.

The Department of Homeland Security said the restricted items included laptop computers, tablets, cameras, travel printers and games bigger than a phone. The restrictions would not apply to aircraft crews, officials said in a briefing to reporters on Monday night that outlined the terms of the ban.

The new policy took effect on Tuesday, and must be followed within 96 hours by airlines flying to the US from airports in Cairo (Egypt), Dubai and Abu Dhabi (UAE), Istanbul (Turkey), Doha (Qatar), Amman (Jordan), Kuwait City, Casablanca (Morocco), Jeddah and Riyadh (Saudi Arabia). 

Officials said the airports were selected based on the "current threat picture" and added that the carriers that fail to follow them risk losing their authorisation to operate in the US. 

The ban applies only to flights on foreign carriers, and not American-operated airlines. Officials did not say how long the ban would remain in place or if other airports would be added, said the report.

In all, officials said an estimated 50 flights each day into the US would be affected. 

The airlines affected are Egyptair, Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways, Kuwait Airways, Qatar Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Royal Jordanian Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines and Turkish Airlines.

Word of the ban was first made public Monday afternoon -- not by US administration officials, but in a tweet sent out by Royal Jordanian Airlines, reported the Washington Post.

Initially, US officials declined to comment on the report, saying only that they would provide an update "when appropriate", said the report.

Royal Jordanian Airlines told passengers that medical devices were still allowed.

The US officials said intelligence "indicates terrorist groups continue to target commercial aviation" by "smuggling explosive devices in various consumer items". 

"Just evaluating all the intelligence, we believe that the threat is still prominent against aircraft and airports," an official said.

Separately, an official with the Transportation Security Administration who confirmed the new restriction, said that not everyone at the agency had been briefed about it as of Monday evening, raising the possibility that it was being rushed out.


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