Published on : Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Britain has joined the United States in temporarily banning carry-on electronic devices on planes coming from certain airports in Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East and North Africa in response to unspecified security threats.
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 Islamist al-Shabaab group to bring down a jet in Somalia using a laptop bomb.
Anyone flying from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia will have to put electronic devices in their hold luggage, despite concerns they could be stolen or damaged.
Ministers said they understood the “frustration” the extra measures would cause passengers but said they are working with the industry to minimize the impact.
Downing Street said the measure was effective immediately, but would not give details as to why the decision had been taken now. No 10 did say UK security services have been “in close touch” with their US counterparts during the decision to implement the ban.
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.
The ban, which has been under consideration for weeks, represents the most significant restriction on air travel since the Government banned passengers from carrying liquids of more than 100ml in their carry-on baggage in 2006.
Theresa May’s official spokesman admitted that the restrictions will cause “disruption”, but said that they are necessary for the safety of passengers.