The US Justice Department is to seek a court order to force Apple Inc to help unlock an iPhone seized as part of a New York drugs case, signalling that the battle between Washington and Silicon Valley over encryption is far from over.

Two weeks ago, the US government dropped its attempt to get Apple to crack an iPhone used by one of the terrorists in the December attacks in San Bernardino, California, saying the FBI had unlocked the phone without Apple’s help.

Some observers thought the government would back away from the New York case, since the defendant has already pleaded guilty.

But in a letter filed in a New York federal court, the Justice Department said: “The government continues to require Apple’s assistance in accessing the data that it is authorised to search by warrant.”

An Apple lawyer said the firm was disappointed but not surprised that the government would continue to fight in New York after giving up in California.

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