Smartphones, tablets, laptops banned on flights to United Kingdom from Middle East

No new threat led to airline laptop limits officials say

Smartphones, tablets, laptops banned on flights to United Kingdom from Middle East

While the US ban included some of the same foreign airlines, it did not affect any domestic ones.

"Our information indicates that terrorist groups' efforts to execute an attack against the aviation sector are intensifying", the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) asserted in a Tuesday press release.

Britain on Tuesday followed the United States in banning large electronic devices in cabin luggage from passengers coming on direct flights from several Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East and northern Africa.

Anything bigger than a smartphone (think DVD players, electronic game devices and larger cameras) will have to go in checked luggage. Passengers with connecting flights are advised to pack large personal electronic devices in checked bags at their originating airport. "These new measures apply to flights into the United Kingdom and we are not now advising against flying to and from those countries".

The restrictions were prompted by reports that militant groups want to smuggle explosive devices in electronic gadgets, United States officials told reporters. The official, who wasn't authorized to speak publicly on the ban, spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The nine airlines that operate direct flights to the US from those airports are Egyptair, Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways, Kuwait Airways, Qatar Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Royal Jordanian Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines and Turkish Airlines.

Royal Jordanian Airlines did however point out that medical devices were excluded from the ban.

"The Middle Eastern and North African airports affected are almost all ones with close, friendly relations with Washington, so this will be seen by some as a drastic and unpopular measure", wrote Frank Gardner, the BBC's security correspondent. They are British Airways, EasyJet, Jet2.com, Monarch, Thomas Cook, and Thomson.

One official said there's no specific plot authorities are aware of, but the USA has been considering such a ban for some time.

"The restrictions are in place due to evaluated intelligence and we think it's the right thing to do and the right places to do it to secure the safety of the traveling public", one USA official said. It's not known why there is a discrepancy between the two lists, but transport secretary Chris Grayling, answering an urgent question on the issue in the House of Commons on Wednesday afternoon, said U.S. security measures were "very much a matter for them".

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