Mar 21, 2017

'Electronics banned from cabin in inbound US flights'

BYPankaj Mishra

Airlines that fly from certain countries in the Middle East and Africa to the US must soon require passengers to check in almost all electronic devices rather than carry them into the cabin, a US official has said.
The official said this will impact some airlines flying into the US, while another administration official specified that this covers devices larger than a cellphone, CNN reported on Monday.
An aviation official told CNN that there is a security concern regarding passengers boarding non-stop flights to the US from specific countries. This relates to the “screening in (some) countries” for such non-stop flights to the US.
They added that they believe a threat to the US would be negated if a passenger transferred through a secondary city with additional and more trustworthy screening procedures.
The directive is to ensure enhanced security measures at select airports for a limited duration.
In a written statement, the Department of Homeland Security said: “We have no comment on potential security precautions, but will provide any update as appropriate.”
A State Department official said embassy officials have been notifying relevant countries and airlines, CNN reported.
Another official said the ban on some electronics is believed to be related to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
The intelligence community has been tracking this threat for some time, but the official said that some information from a recent US Special Forces raid in Yemen contributed to the ongoing concern.
AQAP has been actively trying to build bombs that contain little or no metal content to target commercial aircraft, the CNN report added. And the group’s chief bomb maker, Ibrahim al-Asiri, has trained others to do so.
To date, they are the only terror organisation that has shown a marked effort to try to attack airlines, the officials said.
A third US official said there has been concern about attacks via electronics for some months, but there was not enough information to warrant an airline action before.
An aviation official said US carriers are not affected because none flies directly from the countries in question to the US.
Neither source would specify what airlines were impacted beyond Royal Jordanian Airlines, which tweeted Monday that it will ban most electronics from the cabins on its flights to and from its North American destinations, CNN reported.
Royal Jordanian, however, later deleted its tweet without explanation.

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Pankaj Mishra is a writer of FactorDaily.