British passengers on holiday flights from the Middle East and North Africa will be banned within days from carrying laptops, tablets and other electronic devices on board after security services identified a new al-Qaeda terrorist threat.
More than 2 million passengers a year flying on airlines including British Airways, Thomson, Thomas Cook and Easyjet will be prevented from taking devices larger than a mobile phone into the cabin.
Instead, 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.
The Government introduced the ban after a similar move by the US, where officials revealed “evaluated intelligence” showed that terrorists are “aggressively pursuing innovative measures” to carry out attacks with devices such as laptop bombs.
The intelligence is believed to have come from a raid by US Navy Seals in Yemen in January, which targeted al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsular (AQAP). It resulted in the death of a soldier, but yielded “important intelligence”, according to President Donald Trump.
Reports at the time said AQAP’s bomb-maker Ibrahim al-Asiri was trying to build compact bombs containing only trace amounts of metal that can be smuggled onto planes.
US security analysts are also said to have picked up increased “chatter” in recent weeks from militants saying they want to hide explosives in computers.
Last year the insurgent group al-Shabaab smuggled an explosive-filled laptop on a flight out of Mogadishu, Somalia, blowing a hole in the side of a plane.
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.
The spokesman said: “Safety of the travelling public is our highest priority. That is why we keep aviation security under constant review and put in place measures that are necessary, effective and proportionate.
“Over the last few weeks, the PM has chaired a number of meetings on aviation security, most recently this morning, where it was agreed new measures will be introduced.”
The restrictions will cover all electronic devices larger than 6.3ins (16cm) long, 3.6 inches (9.3cm) wide and 0.6 inches (1.5cms) deep. The ban will hit tablets, laptops, handheld games consoles, e-readers such as Kindles and portable DVD players.
Read more from the source article published in The Telegraph Mar. 22 2017