UK Copies US’ Electronics Ban, Security Experts Astonished
Britain has taken the dramatic move to ban laptop computers and tablets from the cabins of planes flying to the UK from six countries, amid fears of a new terror threat, leaving security experts astonished with the news.
The move affecting thousands of passengers coming from six predominantly-Muslim countries mirrors a similar measure imposed by the US, citing an attempt by the extremist al-Shabaab group to bring down a jet in Somalia using a laptop bomb.
For their part, aviation security figures reacted with astonishment to the UK Government's decision to copy the US ban on electronic devices in cabin baggage from some Middle Eastern and North African nations.
The British Government's decision followed the receipt of specific intelligence reports, according to security sources.
One US official quoted by CNN said new information received in recent weeks showed an affiliate of al-Qaeda was working on a technique to hide explosives inside the battery compartment of electronic devices.
Downing Street refused to discuss any specific terrorist plot, but action hitting 15 airlines with the extra restrictions was taken after Theresa May met aviation experts on Tuesday morning.
Ministers said they understood the "frustration" the extra measures would cause passengers but said they are working with the industry to minimize the impact.
The six countries affected are: Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia. Devices measuring more than 16cm in length, 9.3cm in width, or 1.5cm depth will be banned from the cabin and need to be placed into hold luggage and checked-in before going through security.
Downing Street said the measure was effective immediately, but would not give details as to why the decision had been taken now. No 10 said UK security services have been "in close touch" with their US counterparts during the decision to implement the ban.
The US electronics measure, announced late on Monday, affected nine airlines flying from 10 specific airports in Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar and the UAE, including Dubai, the world's busiest airport for international travelers.
An incident last year appears to have caused particular alarm, after al-Shabaab smuggled an explosive-filled laptop on a flight out of Mogadishu. The explosion was small, but the bomb was particularly placed by the extremist so as to blow a hole in the side of the passenger cabin.
Experts said that if the plane was at a higher altitude, the small blast in the passenger area could have triggered a bigger explosion due to the pressurized cabin and caused the jet to crash.
While the countries affected by the new ban all have Muslim-majority populations, sources stressed that the rule change was entirely intelligence-led.
They said the rationale behind the changes should not be confused with the anti-immigrant sentiments widely thought to have driven highly controversial policies Donald Trump is seeking to introduce in America, described collectively as a "Muslim ban".
Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team