U.S. Raid on Al Qaeda in Yemen Led to Laptop Ban on Flights, Officials Say
Three intelligence sources told The Daily Beast that the ban on carry-on electronics aboard U.S.-bound flights from 10 airports in North Africa and the Middle East was the result of information seized during a U.S. raid on Al Qaeda in Yemen in January. The United Kingdom joined the U.S. ban Tuesday.
Information from the raid shows al Qaeda's successful development of compact, battery bombs that fit inside laptops or other devices believed to be strong enough to bring down an aircraft, the sources said. The battery bombs would need to be manually triggered, a source explained, which is why the electronics ban is only for the aircraft cabin not checked luggage.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security publicly cited two attacks on flights in the last two years, the downing of a Russian jet over the Egyptian Sinai in October 2015 and an attempt that nearly succeeded in bringing down a jet that had taken off from Mogadishu, Somalia last year and made an emergency landing after an explosion ripped open its cabin. The insurgent group Al-Shababb claimed credit for getting a laptop onboard the flight that had been rigged as a bomb.
“Since they weren’t high enough, the explosion wasn’t catastrophic to the plane and they were able to land," one source told The Daily Beast. "The bomber got sucked out of the hole, but it was proof of concept."
DHS declined to comment on the intelligence, saying only "we employ a variety of measures, both seen and unseen, to protect air travelers."