A former British Army soldier facing terrorism-related charges escaped from a prison in southwest London on Wednesday morning, prompting a nationwide manhunt by the police, who appealed to the public for help apprehending him.
The prisoner, Daniel Abed Khalife, is scheduled to go on trial in November on charges that he breached the Official Secrets Act and terrorism statutes. He was charged in late January after a police investigation found that he had left fake bombs at a military base to stir fears of a terrorist attack.
The Metropolitan Police said they believed Mr. Khalife, 21, who escaped from the Wandsworth prison around 7:50 a.m., was still in the London vicinity, where he has ties to the Kingston area. The police described him as being 6 feet 2 inches tall, and said he had been last seen wearing a white T-shirt, red and white checkered pants and brown steel-toe cap boots.
“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,” said Commander Dominic Murphy, head of the police’s counterterrorism command.
Commander Murphy 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.”
Ports and airports across Britain have been placed on alert. There were reports on social media of long lines forming at airports in London, Manchester and Glasgow as police and border control officers checked the identification of passengers.
The BBC reported that Mr. Khalife may have fled the prison by strapping himself to the underside of a food delivery van. It said that he was reported to have been working in the prison kitchens and that he may have been dressed in a chef’s uniform.
Wandsworth is classified as a Category B prison, one level below maximum security. (Category A prisons are typically used to house prisoners charged with terrorism or whose escape would pose extreme danger to public safety or national security.)
At a court hearing in February, prosecutors said Mr. Khalife left fake explosive devices at a base in Stafford, England “with the intention of inducing in another the belief the item was likely to explode or ignite.”
He was also accused of having “elicited” personal information about soldiers from the joint personnel administration system of the Ministry of Defense, which was “likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.”