Concern over explosives being hidden in laptop batteries is reportedly behind a new security measure banning large electronics on flights from select airports in the Middle East and Africa.
CNN reported on Tuesday that recently obtained intelligence shows an al Qaeda affiliate has been trying to perfect techniques for concealing explosives in the batteries of electronic devices.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced Tuesday that passengers will be prohibited from carrying electronic devices larger than a cellphone — such as laptops, tablets, cameras and portable DVD players — onto the cabins of certain U.S.-bound flights. Those items could be stowed in checked luggage, instead.
The indefinite ban applies to 10 different airports in Jordan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, Qatar, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates. The United Kingdom instituted a similar rule Tuesday that targets a slightly different set of airports.
Senior administration officials told reporters that the new security protocols are being implemented in response to an unspecified intelligence threat that indicates terrorist groups are “aggressively pursuing innovative methods” to smuggle explosive devices onto commercial flights.
There wasn’t enough information to spur airline action before, according to CNN, but new information uncovered in a recent U.S. Special Forces raid in Yemen may have contributed to the ongoing concern.
Officials emphasized to CNN that the new electronics ban was not a political decision made by the Trump administration.
The U.S. government has been concerned about explosives being hidden in electronic devices for some time. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, has been trying to build bombs with little or no metal in order to evade screening.
But there has been some confusion and frustration among the aviation industry, which is still reeling from the White House’s proposed travel ban. The nine overseas air carriers affected by the policy have been given 96 hours to begin complying with the new restrictions, and travel groups are seeking clarity about the policy.
The administration has cited several incidents where terrorists have targeted commercial aircraft in the past two years, including one incident in Somalia, which senior officials said involved someone smuggling a device onto a Daallo Airlines flight last year.
Daallo Airlines does not fly to the U.S. and therefore would not be subject to the new security measures.