A former soldier has escaped from Wandsworth prison while awaiting trial for terror and Official Secrets Act offences.
The Metropolitan Police have issued an urgent appeal to trace Daniel Abed Khalife who is believed to have made his getaway on Wednesday morning.
The 21-year-old suspect is alleged to have escaped from the prison – one of the UK’s largest – under a food truck, a Whitehall source has told Sky News.
It is understood he was working in the kitchen and was wearing a chef’s uniform, and is believed to have held on to straps on the truck to make his escape.
Khalife, a former member of the Royal Signals who was based at Beacon Barracks, Beaconside, Stafford, was on remand at the south London prison awaiting trial accused of breaching the Official Secrets Act by collecting information “useful to an enemy”.
He was originally charged with two offences on 27 January following an investigation by the Met’s Counterterrorism Command.
He was a serving member of the British Army at the time, but was discharged in May “as a result of being held on remand for these charges,” an army spokesperson said.
The UK’s Counterterrorism Command was informed about Khalife on Wednesday morning – and an alert was sent out to all UK airports and ports.
Sky News understands extra security checks at Gatwick Airport are the result of the prison escape, which is believed to have happened at around 7.50am.
Manhunt latest: Ex-soldier escaped ‘under a truck dressed as chef’
“Additional security measures are currently in place at London Gatwick and other UK airports and ports,” according to an airport spokesperson.
Heathrow Airport has also warned of the possibility of longer wait times at departures due to the “additional checks”, while the Port of Dover has warned of some delays on traffic leaving the country due to “enhanced checks”.
Khalife was last seen wearing a white T-shirt, red and white chequered trousers and brown steel toe cap boots.
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He is described as being around 6ft 2ins tall, of slim build and with short brown hair.
Commander Dominic Murphy, head of the Metropolitan Police Counterterrorism 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 immediately.
Why wasn’t terror suspect banged up in modern Belmarsh?
“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.”
A senior Met Police figure has told Sky News crime correspondent Martin Brunt that Khalife is considered to be “very low risk” but that officers are making “extensive and urgent inquiries”.
He is thought to still be in the UK, and is believed to have connections to Kingston, in southwest London.
Counter terror officers are leading the investigation, and are focusing their search efforts in the capital, according to Commander Murphy.
Justice Secretary Alex Chalk said he had called a meeting with the governor of HMP Wandsworth on Wednesday to ensure “all necessary steps” had been taken to “secure the prison and progress the investigation”.
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First opened more than 170 years ago, in 1851, HMP Wandsworth is a category B men’s prison.
The prison, in southwest London, holds prisoners taken directly from courts in the local area after sentence, as well as those on remand awaiting trial.
Most UK terror suspects are kept in southeast London’s HMP Belmarsh – a category A prison which is considered the UK’s most secure.
Khalife appeared at the Old Bailey from Wandsworth jail in July to deny a charge of breaching the Official Secrets Act which alleges he committed “an act prejudicial to the safety or interests of the state”.
It states that between 1 May 2019 and 6 January 2022 he “obtained, collected, recorded, published or communicated to any other person articles, notes, documents or information which were calculated to be or might be or were intended to be directly or indirectly useful to an enemy”.
He also denied a charge under the Terrorism Act, which alleges he “elicited information about individuals who are members of His Majesty’s forces” on 2 August 2021.
The charge relates to him allegedly “obtaining personal information from the MoD Joint Personnel Administration system of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism”.
Khalife further pleaded not guilty to carrying out a bomb hoax on or before 2 January by placing “three cannisters with wires on a desk in his accommodation” with the intention of inducing in another a belief this was “likely to explode or ignite and thereby cause personal injury or damage to property”.
He is due to face a six-week trial at Woolwich Crown Court from 13 November.
The public are advised not to approach Khalife if they see him and instead urged to call 999 immediately, quoting reference CAD 1631/06SEP23.