Britain joins U.S. in ban on carry-on electronics
Britain joined the United States on Tuesday in banning passengers traveling from airports in several Muslim-majority countries from bringing laptops, tablets and other portable electronic devices on board with them when they fly.
The U.K. ban applies to six countries, while the U.S. ban applies to 10 airports in eight Muslim-majority countries.
Fliers can still travel with these items, but they must be packed in their checked baggage on U.S.- and U.K-bound flights from airports across the countries including busy transit hubs in Istanbul, Dubai and Doha, Qatar.
The British ban will also include some cellphones and is expected to apply to all airports in the six nations.
A spokesman for the British Prime Minister’s office said the measures were based on the “same intelligence the U.S. relies on.”
The U.S. ban applies to nonstop U.S.-bound flights from 10 international airports in Amman, Jordan; Kuwait City, Kuwait; Cairo; Istanbul; Jeddah and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Casablanca, Morocco; Doha, Qatar; and Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. About 50 flights a day, all on foreign airlines, are affected.
The British rules apply to flights from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia.
Senior U.S. administration officials said the rules were prompted by “evaluated intelligence” that terrorists continue to target commercial aviation by “smuggling explosives in portable electronic devices.”
“Based on this information, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly and Transportation Security Administration acting Administrator Huban Gowadia have determined it is necessary to enhance security procedures for passengers at certain last-point-of-departure airports to the United States,” officials said late Monday.
Federal officials initially described the ban as indefinite. But a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, David Lapan, said the directive runs until Oct. 14 and could be extended for another year “should the evaluation of the threat remain the same.”
The officials would not provide details on the threats. One example they cited involved a bomb, possibly hidden in a laptop, that exploded on board a Somali plane going from Mogadishu to Djibouti, not a U.S.-bound flight.
However, a person familiar with the security warning said the government has long been concerned about the aspirations of a Syria-based terrorist group to build explosive devices hidden inside electronics in a way that would be hard to detect.
In 2014, such concerns led to a tightening of security procedures on U.S.-bound flights, but at the time, some officials said the design of such devices did not appear to have moved past the planning stages. One person familiar with the new restrictions said they were based on more recent intelligence that suggested terrorists had gotten further along in developing such hidden explosives.
Under the restrictions, travelers will be required to put all personal electronic devices larger than a cellphone or smartphone in their checked baggage. U.S. airlines are not affected by the ban because none offer direct U.S.-bound flights from the affected airports.
Turkey’s transport minister, Ahmet Arslan, criticized the ban Tuesday, telling reporters in Ankara that it was not “beneficial” for passengers and that Turkey already has stringent security measures in place, according to Turkey’s semi-official Anadolu news agency.
The British government on Tuesday banned electronic devices in the carry-on bags of passengers traveling to the U.K. from six countries. The decision comes a day after the United States imposed a similar ban.