"Our top priority will always be to maintain the safety of British nationals," says UK government
Britain is set to ban passengers from carrying most electronic devices on flights from certain countries in the Middle East, government officials said Tuesday, following similar measures introduced in the United States.
Hours earlier the US imposed restrictions on carry-on electronic devices bigger than cellphones on planes coming from 10 airports in countries in the Middle East and North Africa on Tuesday, in response to unspecified security threats.
"Passengers flying directly to Britain from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Turkey will be banned from taking laptops and tablet computers into the plane cabin," the UK government said. "Our top priority will always be to maintain the safety of British nationals."
The new rule in the US was announced by the Department of Homeland Security, after an official told Reuters that it had been under consideration since the US government learned of a threat several weeks ago.
A Homeland Security statement said that "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.
"Based on this information, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly and acting transportation security 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," the statement said.
The statement highlighted the downing of a passenger aircraft in Egypt using a drinks can packed with explosives in October 2015, and a bomb attack aboard a Somalian plane using an explosives-laden laptop in February 2016.
The policy covers a dozen foreign airlines and 10 international airports including Cairo, Amman, Kuwait City, Casablanca, Morocco; Doha, Riyadh and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia; Istanbul, and Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
The officials said no American carriers were affected by the ban, which would apply to devices larger than a cell phone. Passengers would only be allowed to carry larger devices like tablets, laptops and cameras in their checked luggage.
Jordanian Airlines said in a now-deleted tweet on Monday that US-bound passengers would be barred from carrying most electronic devices aboard aircraft starting Tuesday at the request of US officials, including those that transit through Canada. Passengers can still carry cell phones and approved medical devices.
The airlines issued a new message via Twitter that "further updates will be announced," using the hashtag "electronicsban".
Further updates will be announced soon regarding #electronicsban.
— Royal Jordanian (@RoyalJordanian) March 20, 2017
Meanwhile Turkish Airlines directed passengers to a statement on Tuesday
For the Attention of Our Passengers Traveling to the United States: https://t.co/mopDCy0wxV
— Turkish Airlines (@TurkishAirlines) March 21, 2017
Al Riyadh newspaper, which is close to the Saudi government, reported that the civil aviation authority had informed "airlines flying from the kingdom's [Saudi] airports to US airports of the latest measures from US security agencies in which passengers must store laptops and tablets" in checked-in baggage.
Al Riyadh quoted a civil aviation authority source as saying that these measures from senior US authorities were relayed to the Saudi interior ministry.
Saudia Airlines confirmed in a tweet that US transportation authorities had barred carrying larger electronic devices in cabin luggage.
— SAUDIA | السعودية (@Saudi_Airlines) March 20, 2017
The White House declined to comment.
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly called congressional lawmakers this weekend to notify them of the plan, congressional aides said.
In July 2014, the department stepped up security of US-bound flights, requiring tougher screening of mobile phones and other electronic devices, and requiring them to be powered up before passengers could board flights to the United States.