March 20, 2017 / 10:56 PM / 7 months ago

UPDATE 6-U.S. to ban some airline passengers from carrying larger electronics

(Adds comment from EgyptAir sources)

By David Shepardson and Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON, March 20 (Reuters) - Passengers on some U.S.-bound foreign airline flights will have to check electronic devices larger than a cell phone once U.S. authorities formalize a new ban in response to an unspecified terrorism threat, U.S. officials told Reuters on Monday.

The new rule is expected to be announced Tuesday by the Department of Homeland Security, the officials said, adding that it had been under consideration since the U.S. government learned of a threat several weeks ago.

A source said the rule would cover around eight to 10 foreign airlines. A separate government official confirmed an Associated Press report that the ban will affect 10 airports in eight countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

Reuters reported earlier the ban would include airlines based in Jordan and Saudi Arabia. The officials did not name the other countries.

No American carriers would be affected by the ban, the officials said. Passengers would be allowed to carry larger devices such as tablets, portable DVD players, laptops and cameras in their checked luggage.

CNN, citing an unnamed U.S. official, said the ban on electronics on certain airlines was related to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and that some information came from a recent U.S. special forces raid in Yemen. Reuters could not immediately confirm the CNN report, but Reuters has reported the group has planned several foiled bombing attempts on Western-bound airlines.

Royal Jordanian Airlines said in a tweet on Monday that U.S.-bound passengers would be barred from carrying most electronic devices aboard aircraft starting Tuesday at the request of U.S. officials, including those that transit through Canada. Passengers can still carry cell phones and approved medical devices.

Al Riyadh newspaper, which is close to the Saudi government, reported that the civil aviation authority had informed “airlines flying from the kingdom’s (Saudi) airports to U.S. airports of the latest measures from U.S. security agencies in which passengers must store laptops and tablets” in checked-in baggage.

Al Riyadh quoted a civil aviation authority source as saying that these measures from senior U.S. authorities were relayed to the Saudi interior ministry.

Saudia Airlines confirmed in a tweet that U.S. transportation authorities had banned carrying larger electronic devices in cabin luggage.

United Arab Emirates carriers Emirates and Etihad Airways told Reuters on Tuesday they had not been advised of any new restrictions on carrying electronic devices on U.S. flights.

Sources at EgyptAir also said the carrier had not been advised of any new restrictions and that a flight to New York had departed earlier on Tuesday with passengers allowed to carry on electronic devices as normal.

The White House declined to comment.

A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, David Lapan, said the agency has “no comment on potential security precautions” and would provide an update when appropriate.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly called congressional lawmakers this weekend to notify them of the plan, congressional aides said.

In July 2014, the Homeland Security Department stepped up security of U.S.-bound flights, requiring tougher screening of mobile phones and other electronic devices and requiring them to be powered up before passengers could board flights to the United States. (Additional reporting by Yara Bayoumy in Washington DC,; Alexander Cornwell in Dubai and Lin Noueihed in Cairo.; Editing by Toni Reinhold, Lisa Shumaker and Andrew Heavens)

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