Passengers flying to US from eight countries are banned from taking electronic items on board

David Gardner
Travel clampdown: Donald Trump: REUTERS

Passengers flying into the United States from eight mainly-Muslim countries countries were today being banned from bringing laptops, tablets and cameras in their carry-on luggage.

The tough new restrictions are believed to have been triggered by a specific terror threat.

The Trump administration was officially announcing the ban today. It will not affect flights from Britain.

A US official said the indefinite ban on most electronic equipment will apply to nonstop flights to the US from 10 international airports serving the cities of Cairo in Egypt, Amman in Jordan, Kuwait City in Kuwait, Casablanca in Morocco, Doha in Qatar, Riyadh and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, Istanbul in Turkey, and Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

Any items larger than a mobile phone will have to be stowed away in checked baggage.

According to CNN, the move follows a raid by US Special Forces in Yemen that revealed information about a bomb plot by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Details emerged after Royal Jordanian Airlines said last night that the ban would affect its flights to New York, Chicago, Detroit and Montreal.

The White House refused to comment, but a government official said the ban had been considered for several weeks before Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly phoned politicians over the weekend to brief them on aviation security issues that have prompted the decision.

Brian Jenkins, an aviation-security expert at the Rand Corporation, said the nature of the security measure suggested that it was driven by intelligence of a possible attack. He added that there could be concern about inadequate passenger screening or even conspiracies involving insiders - airport or airline employees - in some countries.

Another expert, Professor Jeffrey Price of Metropolitan State University of Denver, said there were disadvantages to having everyone put their electronics in checked baggage. Thefts from baggage would skyrocket, as when Britain tried a similar ban in 2006, he said, and some laptops have batteries that can catch fire, an event easier to detect in the cabin than in the cargo hold.

Most major airports in the United States have a computer tomography or CT scanner for checked baggage, which creates a detailed picture of a bag’s contents. They can warn an operator of potentially dangerous material, and may provide better security than the X-ray machines used to screen passengers and their carry-on bags. All checked baggage must be screened for explosives.