LONDON — A massive manhunt took place across Britain on Thursday against a former soldier accused of terrorism who staged a rare escape from a London prison by tying himself to the bottom of a delivery van of food.
Daniel Abed Khalife, 21, was awaiting trial for planting fake bombs on a military base and violating the country’s official secrets law.
The former British Army soldier escaped from Wandsworth prison in south London on Wednesday morning before 8 a.m. (3 a.m. ET), authorities said.
Police called on the public for help and launched an urgent nationwide hunt. Checks were stepped up at airports over fears he was trying to flee the country and passengers faced delays at Heathrow Airport as well as Heathrow Airport. port of Dover.
Khalife has links to areas of Kingston, south-west London, and police said it was “highly likely” he would remain in the city.
“We have a team of officers who are carrying out thorough and urgent investigations in order to locate and arrest Khalife as quickly as possible,” Major Dominic Murphy, head of the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command, said in a statement.
“However, the public can also help us and if anyone sees Khalife or has any information on his whereabouts, please call 999 immediately.”
A Met Police spokesperson told NBC News there were no updates on the manhunt on Thursday morning, 24 hours after the prisoner escaped.
Police said Khalife, who worked in the prison kitchen, was wearing a kitchen uniform when he escaped. Several media outlets reported that he escaped by clinging to the bottom of a food delivery truck, a version of events later confirmed by the government.
“The vehicle was stopped and searched by police after the alert was raised. Straps were found under the vehicle, which appears to indicate that Daniel Khalife may have clung to the underside of the vehicle to escape,” Justice Secretary Alex Chalk told the House. of the Commons in a statement Thursday.
Chalk added that the escaped prisoner “will be found and must be brought to justice”.
Police described him as 6ft 2in tall and of thin build. He wore a white T-shirt, red and white checkered pants usually worn by kitchen staff, and brown steel-toed boots.
Khalife was stationed at Beacon Barracks in Staffordshire, England’s Midlands, where prosecutors say he placed three cartridges with wires on a desk in order to trick others into thinking they were ‘likely to explode or explode’. ignite and thereby cause bodily injury or property damage. reported the Press Association news agency, citing court documents.
According to Press Association, Khalife is accused of having obtained or attempted to obtain information that could be useful to a terrorist in August 2021, and of having collected information that could be useful to an enemy between May 2019 and January 2022. He has denied the charges. .
Khalife was remanded in custody pending a trial which had been set for November 13 at Woolwich Crown Court in London. The criminal justice system in England and Wales faces chronic underfunding and long delays between charges and trials.
Full media coverage of the escape and manhunt fueled further discussion of the country’s failing public service infrastructure.