U.S. implementing electronics ban on flights from Middle East airports

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Citing ongoing terrorist threats to commercial aviation, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will prohibit travelers departing for the U.S. from 10 Middle East airports from carrying on electronic devices, beginning Saturday.

The rule, announced Tuesday morning, makes an exception for cell phones but applies to all larger electronics, including laptops, tablets, e-readers, cameras and portable DVD players.

"Elevated intelligence indicates that terrorist groups continue to target commercial aviation, to include smuggling explosive devices in various consumer items," the DHS said in a Tuesday morning announcement. "Based on this trend, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), in consultation with relevant departments and agencies, has determined it is prudent to enhance security, to include airport security procedures for passengers at certain last point of departure airports, to the United States."

The airports impacted by the rule are in Cairo; Amman, Jordan; Istanbul; Jeddah and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia; Kuwait City; Casablanca, Morocco; Doha, Qatar; and the United Arab Emirates cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

All flyers, including American citizens, departing from those airports to the U.S. must comply with the onboard electronics ban. The DHS also advises flyers transferring through any of those airports en route to the U.S. to pack electronics in checked luggage at their origin airport.

The prohibition will not apply to flights from the U.S. to those destinations. It will be in place indefinitely, said the DHS, remaining in effect until the threat changes.

In explaining the rationale for the ban, the DHS made mention of the 2015 downing of the Russian Metrojet aircraft via a homemade bomb. The plane was on its way to Russia from the Egyptian resort town of Sharm El-Sheikh. All 224 passengers died.

The DHS also mentioned bombings last year at airports in Brussels and Istanbul as well as the bombing last February of a Daallo Airlines plane en route from Somalia to the small African country of Djibouti. One person died in that attack. The plane was able to turn around and land safely in the Somalian capital of Mogadishu.

The DHS gave no specifics on existing threats against the U.S. aviation sector, but said that intelligence information indicates that efforts by terrorist groups to mount aviation-related attacks are increasing.

"We note that disseminated propaganda from various terrorist groups is encouraging attacks on aviation, to include tactics to circumvent aviation security," the department said.

The DHS explained that it is leaving cell phones out of the prohibition to balance risks with impacts to the traveling public.

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