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(Reuters) — The United States will boost security checks overseas for U.S.-bound flights as a precaution following the recent Russian passenger jet crash in Egypt, including asking foreign airports to tighten screening of items before they are brought on board aircraft, U.S. officials said on Friday.
Jeh Johnson, the U.S. Homeland Security Secretary, said in a statement that he and the head of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, "out of an abundance of caution, have identified a series of interim, precautionary enhancements to aviation security with respect to commercial flights bound for the United States from certain foreign airports in the region."
Mr. Johnson's statement said security improvements would include "expanded screening" for items on aircraft, additional assessments of security at foreign airports in partnership with foreign authorities, and unspecificed "offers of other assistance to certain foreign airports" related to aviation and airport security.
The statement said that the enhancements were intended "only for certain foreign airports in the region." It did not specify which airports would be involved. A U.S. official familiar with the matter said that all the airports affected were in the Middle East.
The official said security enhancements by the U.S. would be put in place by local airport authorities and operators in conjunction with U.S. government representatives.
The official said that because the airport at Sharm El Sheikh, from which the Russian aircraft that crashed departed, is not served by any direct flights to the U.S., it would not be affected by the new U.S. security moves.
While airlines of multiple European countries served Sharm el Sheikh before last weekend's flights, U.S. officials said American-flag carriers had not flown directly in or out of that airport for some time.
"All of our members who had flown in or over that region have stopped doing so and are rerouting flights out of an abundance of caution," added Melanie Hinton, a spokesperson for Airlines for America, a trade association for U.S. airlines.
U.S. officials would not say whether the decisions by U.S. airlines to avoid Sharm el Sheik were based on official guidance from any U.S. government agency.
One U.S. official said that within the last two years, TSA had assessed security at foreign airports, and that Sharm el Sheikh had a reputation inside the U.S. government for poor security. Another official noted that TSA has never made such assessments public.
Moscow-based Ingosstrak Insurance Co. leads the primary hull and liability insurance coverage for the Russian Airbus A321 that crashed in Egypt on Sunday, killing all 224 people on board, sources said.