On Tuesday, officials from both the United States and Great Britain announced new restrictions being imposed on electronic devices that may be carried on board aircraft coming from certain airports in Muslim-majority nations in the Middle East as well as North Africa.  The new regulations are intended to help curb potential terrorist threats.

The Department of Homeland Security announced the new restrictions, citing devices such as tablets, portable DVD players, laptops and cameras that are larger than a mobile phone as banned in the main cabin of aircraft leaving the list of ten airports in eight countries.  The devices can still be brought on the aircraft via checked baggage, but cannot remain with the passenger during the flight.

Britain followed suit hours later, announcing similar restrictions via a spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May.  Their restrictions outline limits on digital devices being carried on board by passengers flying out of six Middle Eastern nations.

The new restrictions have not yet gone into effect, but DHS stated, “The affected airlines have already been informed and we expect the measures to be in place in the next couple of days.”

According to sources in each nation, these changes were brought about by intelligence reports that indicate militant groups are working to find new ways to smuggle explosive devices on board commercial air craft via readily available electronic devices.

“The U.S. government is concerned about terrorists’ ongoing interest in targeting commercial aviation, including transportation hubs over the past two years,” a U.S. counter-terrorism official said in a statement.  “Our information indicates that terrorist groups’ efforts to execute an attack against the aviation sector are intensifying.”

“Based on this information, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly and Transportation Security Administration acting 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,” officials said late Monday.

According to officials, this decision has no ties to President Trump’s recent efforts to pass executive orders barring travelers from entering the United States from certain nations, or continued discussion pertaining to refugees.  According to Gillian Christensen, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, the American government “did not target specific nations. We relied upon evaluated intelligence to determine which airports were affected.”

The airports effected by the new American restrictions are Queen Alia International Airport (AMM) in Jordan, Cairo International Airport (CAI) in Egypt, Ataturk International Airport (IST) in Turkey, King Abdulaziz International Airport (JED) and King Khalid International Airport (RUH) in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait International Airport (KWI) in Kuwait, Mohammed V International Airport (CMN) in Morocco, Hamad International Airport (DOH) in Qatar and Dubai International Airport (DXB) and Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH) in the United Arab Emirates.

The countries included in the new British restrictions are Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia.

“Direct flights to the UK from these destinations can continue to operate to the UK subject to these new measures being in place,” a British government spokesman said.

Initially, reports indicated that these new restrictions would be indefinite, but DHS spokesman David Lapan indicated on Tuesday that the new directive is set to expire on October 14th, when it could be extended if officials believe the threat inciting it remains active.


Image courtesy of the Associated Press