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The New Arab

Security chief: US may expand Middle East laptop ban

The affected airports are in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia [Getty]

Date of publication: 6 April, 2017

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The US may soon expand its controversial ban on passengers carrying computers on board on US-bound flights.

The United States may soon expand its controversial ban on air passengers carrying computers on board on US-bound flights, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said on Wednesday.

The threat of a terror group trying to blow up an aircraft mid-flight is constant, he told a Senate hearing on border security, suggesting that the current ban might not have gone far enough.

"It's real, I think it's getting realer," he said of the threat.

"We may take measures in the not-too-distant future to expand the number of airports," he added.

Last month, Washington banned passengers on direct flights to the United States from 10 airports in eight countries from carrying on board laptop computers, tablets and other electronic devices larger than mobile phones.

The affected airports are in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia. Britain followed with a similar ban.

The move, which forces passengers to put their devices into checked baggage, came as counter-terror officials developed concerns that extremist groups were devising bombs disguised as batteries in consumer electronics.

The trade association of the world's airlines has slammed the ban, calling it an unacceptable "long-term solution to whatever threat" the US and UK governments are trying to mitigate.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has urged the US and Britain to lift the ban.

A bomb that blew a hole in the fuselage of a Somali airline in February 2016, killing one person, is believed to have been built into a laptop computer carried into the passenger cabin.

"The airports that I decided to prohibit... are from predominantly Muslim countries I didn't do that because of the Muslim religion or the colour of their skin", Kelly said.

Dozens of terrorist cells discuss such attacks "on any given day," he said.

"If we cannot get our arms around the current threat, you can expect additional protocol adjustments in the very near future," he added of the computer restrictions.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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