International desk – The United States is likely to ban in-flight electronic devices from certain countries in the Middle East and Africa to the US, according to media reports.
According to US broadcaster Cable News Network, airlines that fly from certain countries in the Middle East and Africa to the U.S. must soon require passengers to check in almost all electronic devices rather than carry them into the cabin.
An official told the network this will impact some airlines flying into the United States. Another U.S. administration official says this covers devices larger than a cellphone.
An aviation official told the network that there is a security concern regarding passengers boarding nonstop flights to the U.S. from specific countries. This relates to the “screening in [some] countries” for nonstop flights to the U.S.
They added that they believe a threat to the U.S. 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 says embassy officials have been notifying relevant countries and airlines.
Another U.S. official says the ban on some electronics is believed to be related to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula or AQAP.
The intelligence community has been tracking this threat for some time, but the official said that some information from a recent U.S. 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. And the group’s chief bomb maker, Ibrahim al-Asiri, has trained others to do so.
To date, they are the only terror organization that has shown a marked effort to try to attack airlines, the officials said.
A third U.S. official said there has been concern about attacks via electronics for some months, but there wasn’t enough information to warrant an airline action before.
An aviation official said U.S. carriers are not affected because none flies directly from the countries in question to the United States
BBC reported quoting a source in the US government that the measure would affect nine airlines operating out of 10 airports.
It will reportedly include all large electronic devices such as laptops, tablets cameras, DVD players and electronic games.
But mobile phones and smartphones will still be allowed in carry-on luggage.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) declined to comment on the issue but is expected to make an announcement on Tuesday.
Last February an aircraft operated by the Dubai-based carrier Daallo was damaged by an explosion shortly after take-off from the Somali capital, Mogadishu.
Investigators said a passenger who was sucked out of the plane had been carrying a laptop bomb. The pilot managed to land and the alleged bomber was the only fatality. Had the device gone off at cruising altitude the plane would almost certainly have been destroyed.
The Islamic militant group al-Shabab, which is linked to al-Qaeda, claimed that it was responsible and the possibility of further such attacks is apparently what is now concerning American spies.
But, as ever with matters of intelligence, officials are reluctant to go into detail about exactly why the ban is being proposed.
It is unclear which airlines would fall under the ban and how long it will be in place.
But Royal Jordanian Airlines tweeted on Monday that it would ban passengers from carrying on most electronics to and from its North American flights .
The tweet was later deleted.
The Jordan-based carrier said that starting on Tuesday, it will only allow phones and medical devices on its flights. All other electronics would be “strictly prohibited”.
The airline said that laptops, tablets, DVD players and electronic games must be checked with baggage.
The new rule will affect Royal Jordanian flights to New York, Chicago, Detroit and Montreal.
The new ban has been under consideration for several weeks, according to US media.