U.S. Bans Electronic Devices On Airlines From Muslim Countries

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The U.S. has barred airline passengers coming from eight Muslim-majority countries from carrying electronic devices larger than a mobile phone.

Donald Trump administration has unveiled a new policy targeting eight Middle Eastern and North African countries in response to an unspecified terrorism threat coming from countries with a history of terrorism. While no American carriers are affected by the ban, it reportedly affects at least nine airlines from ten airports in eight Muslim countries, including such countries as the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan.

Senior officials within the Trump administration told reporters that the affected airlines were given 96 hours beginning at 7:00 GMT on Tuesday to ban electronic devices from their planes. The electronic device ban was necessary as “terrorist groups continue to target commercial aviation and are aggressively pursuing innovative methods to undertake their attacks, to include smuggling explosive devices in various consumer items,” the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement.

The ban will prevent passengers travelling on certain U.S.-bound foreign airline flights from bringing laptops, iPads and cameras in carry-on luggage. The ban, which comes less than two months after Trump’s travel ban on seven Muslim-majority nations, is expected to be announced by the White House on Tuesday.

Which Muslim airlines could be affected by the ban?

While details on the ban are expected to be disclosed by the Trump administration on Tuesday, the ban will reportedly affect nine airlines: Royal Jordanian Airlines, EgyptAir, Turkish Airlines, Saudi Airlines, Kuwait Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Qatar Airways, Emirates, and Etihad Airways.

“DHS, in close cooperation with our intelligence community partners, selected these airports based on the current threat picture,” the DHS said in the statement, adding that new airlines and airports could be added to the list if the terrorist threat continues to grow.

The Independent has identified at least a dozen non-American airlines that carry passengers to the U.S. from the Middle East and North Africa. The list of these airlines includes:

  • Turkish Airlines from Istanbul
  • Emirates from Dubai and Athens
  • Kuwait Airways from Kuwait
  • Qatar Airways from Doha
  • South African Airways from Johannesburg and Dakar
  • EgyptAir from Cairo
  • Royal Jordanian from Amman
  • Lome in Togo and Dublin
  • Arik Air from Lagos
  • Royal Air Maroc from Casablanca
  • Ethiopian from Addis Ababa
  • Saudia from Jeddah and Riyadh
  • Etihad from Abu Dhabi

Which electronic devices are banned from flights?

While the exact reason for the electronic device ban is immediately unclear, U.S. officials familiar with the new policy told Reuters that the Trump administration has been considering the new measure since it learned about a certain terrorist threat several weeks ago.

Royal Jordanian Airlines, which operates at least 110 daily departures, has already issued a comment on the U.S. electronic device ban. In a since-deleted tweet, the airline stated that medical devices were excluded from the ban, according to The Hill.

“Following instructions from the concerned US departments, we kindly inform our dearest passengers departing to and arriving from the United States that carrying any electronic or electrical device on board the flight cabins is strictly prohibited,” the tweet read before it was deleted.

The airline added that banned electronic devices, which include everything larger than a mobile phone – laptops, iPads, tablets, cameras, DVD players, electronic games – must be carried in checked luggage.

However, the DHS said in its statement that medical devices would be allowed in the cabin only after additional screening.

Why now?

Experts are speculating as to why the Trump administration has unveiled the electronic device ban now and not in January with the Muslim travel ban. Brian Jenkins, an aviation security expert at the Rand Corp., told The Independent that judging by the nature of the new anti-terrorism policy, it could be caused by the U.S. government learning about a terrorist attack on the U.S.

An anonymous U.S. official cited by CNN said the electronic device ban was related to recent activity of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. U.S. special forces reportedly carried out a large-scale raid in Yemen recently, during which they learned that al Qaeda is planning a series of terror acts and bombings on Western-bound airlines.

Al Riyadh newspaper, which is closely associated with the Saudi Arabian government, has seemingly confirmed U.S. plans to bar passengers travelling on certain U.S.-bound foreign airline flights from carrying certain electronic devices. Al Riyadh wrote that the Saudi civil aviation department had informed “airlines flying from the kingdom’s (Saudi) airports to U.S. airports of the latest measures from US security agencies in which passengers must store laptops and tablets” in checked baggage.

Will the ban on devices be opposed by U.S. courts?

The new anti-terrorism measures come less than a week after the Trump administration’s second attempt to ban travelers from seven Muslin-majority countries was blocked by U.S. courts. It’s yet unclear if the courts will oppose the new ban on electronic devices, but many human rights advocates have been slamming the U.S. President’s so-called “Muslim ban,” which was introduced in January several days after Trump assumed office.

When unveiling the new measures, the DHS cited the downing of an airliner in Egypt in November 2015 which killed all 217 passengers and seven crew members. The DHS also cited the attempted airliner bombing in Somalia in 2016 and attacks against airports in Brussels and Istanbul last year.

The DHS has stressed that the new ban on devices is important as terrorist groups are now targeting commercial aviation by attempting to sneak in explosive devices in various consumer items.

“Terrorists have historically tried to hide explosives in shoes in 2001, use liquid explosives in 2006, and conceal explosives in printers in 2010 and suicide devices in underwear in 2009 and 2012,” the DHS statement reads. “Within the last year, we have also seen attacks conducted at airports to include in Brussels and Istanbul.”

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