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Prison break of terror suspect enters second day

The hunt for a terror suspect who escaped a prison by clinging to the underside of a food delivery van has entered its second day.

Daniel Abed Khalife, 21, was awaiting trial at London’s HMP Wandsworth after being accused of leaving fake bombs at a military base.

Questions are being asked over whether proper protocols were followed, and whether the former soldier was being detained at the appropriate facility.

An urgent inquiry is under way.

The terror suspect is understood to have gone missing from the prison kitchen at around 07:50 BST on Wednesday.

Daniel Abed Khalife, the terror suspect who escaped from HMP Wandsworth

There was a delay of approximately an hour between prison officials noticing Mr Khalife was missing since and contacting the police, The Times has reported.

Extra security checks at airports and ports led to long delays for passengers on Wednesday as authorities believed he may be attempting to leave the country.

As the manhunt stretched into Thursday, there were no signs that police had made a breakthrough.

Mr Khalife has been described as 6ft 2ins tall and was last seen wearing a prison-issue chef’s uniform of a white T-shirt, red and white chequered trousers and brown steel toe cap boots.

Police have said he poses a “low risk” to the public but people have been urged not to approach him and to call 999 instead.

The Met’s decision to seek the public’s help could suggest that any initial leads have gone cold.

Mr Khalife, who joined the Army in 2019, has links to the Kingston area of London and to north-west England, but the search has been expanded across the country.

Cdr Dominic Murphy, head of the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command, confirmed all police forces and UK border points had been put on notice on Wednesday.

Cdr Murphy said although counter-terror officers have deployed across London, where the search has been focussed, Mr Khalife “could be anywhere in the country at the moment and we are mindful of the risk of him potentially leaving the country”.

Why was ex-soldier not in higher security jail?

Questions are being asked in government about whether it was appropriate that Mr Khalife was being held at a lower security prison, rather than a high-security facility like HMP Belmarsh in south-east London.

HMP Belmarsh

The Prison Service is working with the Metropolitan Police to “urgently investigate” how he escaped and Justice Secretary Alex Chalk has also sought “reassurances about security at the prison”.

Mr Chalk held two rounds of talks with officials at the Prison and Probation Service on Wednesday, as well as HMP Wandsworth’s governor, to ask why Mr Khalife was not being held at a high security prison and whether proper protocols were followed once the alarm was raised.

It is understood that No 10 is being kept updated on the situation.

“An internal investigation is under way and the justice secretary is working to understand from operational colleagues this evening both the categorisation decision and the situation that led to the escape, what protocols were in place and if they were followed”, a Prison Service spokesperson said.

The former soldier was on remand awaiting a trial due to begin on 13 November at Woolwich Crown Court.

The charges he faces are in relation to terrorism and Official Secrets Act offences, including preparing an act of terrorism and collecting information useful to an enemy. He was allegedly working for a hostile state.

He has denied the three charges against him.

In February, Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard he allegedly left fake devices at MOD Stafford, where he was based, “with the intention of inducing in another the belief the item was likely to explode or ignite”.

A previous court appearance heard he “elicited” personal information about soldiers from the Ministry of Defence Joint Personnel Administration System which was “likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism” in 2021.

The former soldier disappeared from his base on 2 January after allegedly carrying out the terror offences, before being arrested “in or near his car” on 26 January after “active efforts to look for him”, a previous court hearing heard.

Mr Khalife was denied bail and when he appeared in court via video link in July, he was being held at HMP Wandsworth, a category B facility.

Labour shadow justice secretary Shabana Mahmood said the government needed to “urgently explain how they can’t do the basic job of keeping potentially dangerous criminals locked up”.

Ian Acheson, a justice expert who has advised the government on counter-terrorism in prisons and was head of security at HMP Wandsworth in the 1990s, called the escape “very serious”.

He told BBC News that the category B prison is “not an obvious place for somebody who has been charged with terror offences and is potentially a national security risk”.

(Source: BBC)

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