The prohibition on carry-on electronics for certain flights to the US and Britain shows both the Islamic State group and Al-Qaeda remain able to mount potent threats to civil aviation despite tighter airport security, experts say.
On Tuesday, US authorities ordered a ban on laptop computers, tablets, cameras and other items larger than cell phones in passenger cabins of direct US-bound flights from certain airports in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Egypt, Turkey, and Jordan.
Britain imposed similar restrictions on flights from six countries, while France and Canada said they were considering their own measures.
Analysts say an intelligence tip was likely behind the announcement. The New York Times reported that US counterterrorism officials have intelligence that IS operatives are developing a bomb to be hidden in laptop computer batteries.
Doing so would bring the group up to the technological level of rival Al-Qaeda’s Yemen branch Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), where so-called expert bombmaker Ibrahim al-Asiri has spent years on a similar effort.
Airport security is much better than just a few years ago, Jay Ahern, the former acting director of the US Customs and Border Control, told AFP.
“But clearly terror organizations continue to target air travel, and they have shown a clear ability to innovate,” Ahern said.
‘Innovative’ AQAP bombmaker
Recent attacks on aircraft in Somalia and Egypt are evidence of a focus by jihadist groups on developing harder-to-detect bombs — and getting them on flights.
The bomb that blew a hole in the fuselage of a Somalian airline in February 2016, killing one person, is believed to have been built into a laptop computer carried into the passenger cabin.
That attack was claimed by the Al-Shabaab group