U.S. Suddenly Bans Laptops and Tablets on Some Middle Eastern Flights to America

The United States is banning many common electronic devices from the cabin on inbound and outbound flights on more than a dozen Middle Eastern and African airlines. It’s not clear whether the ban reflects concerns about an imminent security risk, but it is making waves among big carriers that fly to and from the United States.

On Monday, Royal Jordanian Airlines abruptly announced on Twitter that it received “instructions from the concerned U.S. departments” that passengers can’t carry any electronic devices bigger than a cell phone onto its flights into or from the United States. The tweet was deleted several hours later.

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Devices including laptops, tablets, cameras, and DVDs can only be put in checked bags. Medical devices and cellphones were exempted. The ban comes into effect starting March 21 and airlines are expected to comply within 96 hours.

A public relations executive for Saudia Airlines, the Saudi Arabian national carrier, tweeted that U.S. authorities ordered the directive for passengers from 13 countries, but he didn’t specify which ones:

Royal Jordanian Airlines didn’t specify which U.S. departments instructed this ban, or specify whether the ban was temporary or permanent.

A spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security didn’t deny there is a directive, but declined to comment. “We have no comment on potential security precautions, but will provide an update when appropriate,” spokesperson Gillian Christensen told Foreign Policy.

A congressional aide told the Associated Press Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly informed lawmakers of security issues related to the upcoming electronics ban over the weekend.

The Guardian reported that the the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, which oversees security at airports,…

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