03/22/2017, 10.56
MIDDLE EAST - UNITED STATES
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Washington and London prohibit and tablets and pc on flights from Africa and the Middle East

The measure will enter into force on 25 March and does not have a end date. Threats from the Yemeni al Qaeda cell behind the ban, ready for new attacks. Experts and analysts raise doubts about its real effectiveness.

Amman (AsiaNews / Agencies) - After the entry ban for immigrants from Muslim-majority countries (currently suspended by the judiciary), the US administration led by Donald Trump has set its sights on computers and tablets. No electronic items in the cabin, excluding mobile phones and medical equipment, on direct flights to the US from eight nations in North Africa and the Middle East.

According to the norm all major mobile technology equipment must be transported in checked baggage. These include electronic games, computers, DVD players and cameras.

A few hours later, London approved a similar measure, which shall apply - unlike the United States - to six countries of the same area. Paris and Ottawa are also considering the possible introduction.

The decision was taken following a warning launched by intelligence agencies, that are high possibilities of terrorist threats on direct flights to US soil.

The nine airlines affected by the new law emanating from Washington are: Royal Jordanian, EgyptAir, Turkish Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Kuwait Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad Airways. The British ban, announced a few hours later apply to other carriers including British Airways and EasyJet and respect of passengers coming from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia.

The airports concerned by the measure are: Mohammed V International, Casablanca, Morocco; Ataturk Airport, Istanbul, Turkey; Cairo International Airport, Egypt; Queen Alia International, Amman, Jordan; King Abdulaziz International, Jeddah, and King Khalid International, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Kuwait International Airport; Hamad International, Doha, Qatar; International Abu Dhabi and Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

According US government sources, the ban will come into effect at 7 am on March 25; for now the restrictions will apply for an unlimited period of time. Emirates company sources report instead it will be in force until October 14, 2017.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is hosting a two-day meeting of ministers and senior officials from 68 nations to discuss the terrorist threat posed by Islamic State (IS). The meeting aims to accelerate efforts to defeat the jihadists in the last two strongholds remained in their possession: Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria.

US intelligence sources speak of credible information, under which the militants would be working to carry explosives aboard aircraft, using electronic equipment including computers and tablets. The threats  are "substantial" and "credible".

The measure - tied to a threat from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (Aqpa), the Yemeni  cell - enjoys the bipartisan support of Republicans and Democrats. Eric Swalwell, Democratic member of the Intelligence Committee of the House, speaks of a "new threat to air travel." Fellow Republican Peter King added that there would be no credible information about already "planned attacks."

However, some analysts and experts question the effectiveness of the measure and advance further problems related to the safety of flights. The electronic means, containing batteries and flammable elements, will be placed in the hold and will need additional measures to prevent cases of fire. Matthew Finn, consultant for the Augmentiq security agency, said that "placing these items in the hold, rather than in the cab, makes little sense." In addition, these electronic means transformed into explosives can also be operated via remote mechanism, including "small mobile phones”.

The use of computers on flights became the subject of attention from security departments, following an inident over the African skies. A suspected suicide bomber would detonated explosives contained within a portable pc, on Daallo Airlines flight took off from Mogadishu in February 2016. The explosion would have caused a hole in the fuselage measuring about one meter, which has sucked the bomber out, who was the only victim of  theattack and forced the plane to carry out an emergency landing.

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