Escaped terror suspect may be trying to flee country

A suspected terrorist who escaped from prison by clinging to the underside of a delivery truck is feared to be attempting to flee the country on Wednesday night.

A huge manhunt is under way for Daniel Abed Khalife, a former British Army soldier and computer specialist, who broke out of HMP Wandsworth just before 8am on Wednesday.

Counter-terror police put all ports on high alert amid fears Khalife would try to get out of the UK, and extra passport checks led to delays for passengers at some airports.

Ministry of Justice officials were left red faced after it emerged that Khalife – who is facing terrorism and spying charges – managed to break out of Wandsworth prison by hiding underneath a food delivery van as it left the prison grounds.

The 21-year-old, who was wearing a chef’s uniform of red and white chequered trousers, had been working in the prison kitchens helping to prepare breakfast when he made his escape.

Scotland Yard issued an urgent appeal to help track him down but warned the public not to approach if they spotted him.

The category B Victorian prison, which houses more than 1,500 inmates, was placed in lockdown following the escape – the first at Wandsworth since 2019.

Khalife, who was born in London and is of Middle Eastern heritage, was discharged from the British Army in May after he was charged with breaking the Official Secrets Act and perpetrating a bomb hoax.

He had previously lived in the Kingston area of south-west London, where police helicopters were spotted scouring the area on Wednesday.

At the same time plain-clothes officers kept watch on an upstairs flat in Kingston, close to the edge of Richmond Park, where Khalife’s mother and sister are understood to have lived until a few years ago.

A neighbour told The Telegraph: “A woman lived upstairs who had a son and daughter. The boy would come and go swearing loudly. She moved to Wales roughly three years ago, a year after we moved in.

“The family were British, of Middle Eastern origin. They didn’t talk to us or anyone else in the street very much that I could see.

“It’s worrying to think that this young man might head back to this area after escaping from prison.”

Heathrow, Glasgow and Manchester airports all reported queues at security gates on Wednesday, and it is understood that extra passport checks were being carried out while Khalife was being hunted. Delays were also reported at the Port of Dover.

Suspect is computer specialist

Khalife joined the Army after leaving school in 2018, and was stationed at the Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) Beacon Barracks, home to the Royal Corps of Signals 1st Signal Brigade; the Defence Electronics Agency, the RAF Joint Helicopter Command’s Tactical Supply Wing and No 22 Group air force cadets.

On social media, he described his role as being a computer specialist with skills including help desk implementation, random access memory systems, information technology and system administration.

Khalife was first arrested in August 2021 on suspicion of breaching the Official Secrets Act by obtaining information about soldiers from the MoD Joint Personnel Administration System that could be of use to terrorists.

He was bailed by police and allowed to return to his role at the MoD base in Stafford.

Khalife joined the Army after leaving school in 2018

Khalife joined the Army after leaving school in 2018

However, in January this year, he was arrested again after a fake bomb was allegedly discovered on his desk.

He was charged with two offences and appeared at the Old Bailey in July when a further offence of breaching the Official Secrets Act was added to the indictment. He was due to stand trial in November.

The Telegraph understands police do not believe Khalife is driven by any specific ideology.

He was initially held at HMP Belmarsh but had been transferred to HMP Wandsworth in south London ahead of his trial.

Several escapes

HM Prison Wandsworth, built in the 1850s and one of the largest prisons in the UK, has had a number of successful escape attempts over the years.

In 2019, a remand prisoner escaped while awaiting transfer for a court appearance and in 2011 another remand prisoner, Neil Moore, escaped after creating a fake email account and contacting the prison authorising his release.

The most high-profile escapee from Wansdworth was Ronnie Biggs, the Great Train Robber, who climbed over a wall in 1965 while serving a 30-year sentence.

Two years later he fled to Brazil and remained on the run until 2001, when he returned to the UK.

Wandsworth prison

Wandsworth is one of the largest prisons in the UK – Andrew Aitchison

Commander Dominic Murphy, head of the Met’s counter terrorism command said: “We have a team of officers who are making extensive and urgent enquiries in order to locate and detain Khalife as quickly as possible.

“However, the public can help us as well and should anyone see Khalife, or have any information as to where he might be, then please call 999 or the immediately.

“I also want to reassure the public that we have no information which indicates, nor any reason to believe that Khalife poses a threat to the wider public, but our advice if you do see him is not to approach him and call 999 straight away.”

Alex Chalk, the Justice Secretary, held a conference call with Katie Price, the prison’s governor, and prison chiefs to establish how Khalife escaped and to obtain assurances about immediate measures to prevent a repeat. He is receiving regular updates.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “We are working with the Metropolitan Police to recapture this prisoner and are urgently investigating how he escaped.”

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