A massive UK manhunt is underway after an ex-soldier facing terrorism charges slipped out of a London prison by strapping himself to the bottom of a van while dressed as a chef — with his escape going unnoticed for nearly an hour.
Daniel Abed Khalife, 21, is thought to have gone missing inside Wandsworth Prison at around 7 a.m. Wednesday — with the alarm only raised just before 8 a.m., according to The Times of London.
He’d been working a morning shift in the jail’s kitchens and was wearing a cook’s uniform of a white T-shirt and red checkered trousers when he lashed himself with straps to the bottom of a departing food delivery van, police said.
The manhunt quickly alerted Britain’s ports and airports, including London Heathrow — Britain’s busiest airport — where travelers faced delays because of additional security checks over fears Khalife would try to flee.
Khalife has been accused of planting three fake canister bombs at a military base and leaking sensitive information to Iran.
The charges for violating Britain’s Official Secrets Act accuse him of gathering information “likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.”
The soldier was booted from the military in May following his arrest. Khalife has denied any wrongdoing. His trial is set for November.
Police warned the public not to approach Khalife, although Commander Dominic Murphy, head of the London police’s Counter Terrorism Command, said that there is no information to suggest that the escapee poses a threat to the general public.
“We have a team of officers who are making extensive and urgent inquiries in order to locate and detain Khalife as quickly as possible,” Murphy said.
Justice Secretary Alex Chalk address to the House of Commons Thursday, vowing that Khalife will be “caught in due course.”
However, he called for an immediate investigation into the London prison’s protocols and the decision not to hold Khalife in a maximum-security prison.
“No stone must be left unturned in getting to the bottom of what happened,” Chalk told parliament.
With Post wires
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