US bans electronics on flights from 8 Muslim countries

Washington, (IANS): Passengers travelling to the US from eight countries in the Middle East and North Africa will be prohibited from carrying electronic devices in the cabin, according to new security restrictions by US President Donald Trump’s administration.

Passengers will have to check in any devices bigger than a smartphone, including iPads, Kindles and laptops before clearing security or boarding, US officials said, citing terrorism concerns, CNN reported on Tuesday.

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The ban will affect over 50 flights from 10 airports, including major global hubs like Dubai and Istanbul, according to senior administration officials. Crew members are not included in the device ban.

Officials said the airlines affected by the ban will have 96 hours to comply with the restrictions. Carriers that fail to follow them risk losing their authorisation to operate in the US.

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.

The 10 international airports covered by the ban are 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”.

The officials said US carriers are not affected because none of them fly from the airports in question to the US.

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.