Britain follows US in electronics ban on flights from Middle East

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Britain will follow the United States in banning carry-on electronic goods from passanger cabins on inbound flghts from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Turkey.

“Our top priority will always be to maintain the safety of British nationals,” a spokesman said after the US imposed a similar ban, warning that extremists plan to target planes with bombs in electronic devices.

The United States warned on Tuesday that extremists plan to target passenger jets with bombs hidden in electronic devices, and banned carrying them onto flights from 10 Middle East airports.

Senior US officials told reporters that nine airlines from eight countries had been given 96 hours, beginning at 3:00 am, to ban devices bigger than a cellphone or smartphone from the cabin.

The new rule is expected to be announced as early as Monday by the Department of Homeland Security, the officials said, adding that it had been under consideration since the US government learned of a threat several weeks ago.

A source said the rule would cover nearly a dozen foreign airlines. A separate government official confirmed an Associated Press report that the ban will impact 10 airports in eight countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Reuters reported earlier the ban would include airlines based in Jordan and Saudi Arabia. The officials did not name the other countries.

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The officials said no American carriers were affected by the ban, which would apply to devices larger than a cell phone, and none travel directly to the airports impacted from US cities Passengers would be allowed to carry larger devices in their checked luggage like tablets, portable DVD players, laptops and cameras.

Royal Jordanian Airlines said in a tweet on Monday that US-bound passengers would be barred from carrying most electronic devices aboard aircraft starting Tuesday at the request of US officials, including those that transit through Canada. Passengers can still carry cell phones and approved medical devices.

Al Riyadh newspaper, which is close to the Saudi government, reported that the civil aviation authority had informed “airlines flying from the kingdom’s (Saudi) airports to US airports of the latest measures from US security agencies in which passengers must store laptops and tablets” in checked in baggage.

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Al Riyadh quoted a civil aviation authority source as saying that these measures from senior US authorities were relayed to the Saudi interior ministry. Saudi Airlines confirmed in a tweet that US transportation authorities had barred carrying larger electronic devices in cabin luggage. The White House declined to comment.

A spokesman for the US Department of Homeland Security, David Lapan, said the agency has “no comment on potential security precautions, but will provide an update when appropriate. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly called congressional lawmakers this weekend to notify them of the plan, congressional aides said

In July 2014, the Homeland Security Department stepped up security of US-bound flights, requiring tougher screening of mobile phones and other electronic devices and requiring them to be powered up before passengers could board flights to the United States.

(With Reuters and AFP)

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