Official: al-Qaeda Intel Led to Flight Laptop Ban

Sources say terrorists are perfecting 'battery bomb'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 22, 2017 5:28 AM CDT
Updated Mar 22, 2017 6:41 AM CDT
Feds Say Intelligence Prompted Flight Laptop Ban
Airport staff gather near a security checkpoint at Cairo International Airport.   (AP Photo)

A ban on US-bound passengers on flights on certain airlines from airports in eight countries in the Middle East and North Africa bringing laptops, tablets, and cameras into airline cabins was prompted by intelligence about a possible terror threat, US officials say. Federal officials haven't been specific about the threat, though a source tells CNN that the ban was brought in after intelligence indicated that al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was perfecting "battery bombs" powerful enough to bring down a plane and that could be hidden in electronic items. According to the Daily Beast's sources, this intelligence was seized during a US raid on Yemen in January. In other coverage:

  • The UK introduced a similar ban on laptops and other electronics bigger than cellphones Tuesday, though with a slightly different list of countries, reports the AP, which has a list of the countries, airlines, and airports affected by the American and British bans.

  • A source tells ABC that the threat to bring down a plane came from ISIS associates, and the government considers the information to be both "substantiated" and "credible."
  • The ban comes as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson hosts a meeting in Washington Wednesday and Thursday with 68 countries involved in the fight against ISIS, reports the BBC, which describes the summit as a chance for the Trump administration to "put its stamp on" the battle against the extremist group.
  • Experts tell the AP that while a bomb in the cargo hold could be just as deadly as one in the cabin, passengers are still allowed to have laptops in checked baggage because more sophisticated technology is used to scan those bags. One of the Daily Beast's sources say the kind of bomb authorities are worried about needs to be manually triggered.
  • Airline industry analyst Robert Mann, however, tells the Guardian that filling a plane's cargo hold with hundreds of devices containing lithium-ion batteries increases the danger of fire and explosions. He warns that fires in the hold are harder to detect and fight than ones in the cabin.
  • The Washington Post reports that some analysts suspect the ban is more about business interests than about security. They note that US airlines accuse some of the affected airlines, which fly from hubs in the Gulf, of receiving unfair subsidies—and that the ban is likely to cause many first-class and business class passengers who want to use laptops to work while they fly to choose US airlines over competitors like Emirates.
(More airport security stories.)

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