Who is Daniel Khalife? The terror suspect ex-soldier who escaped Wandsworth prison

Who is Daniel Khalife? The terror suspect ex-soldier who escaped Wandsworth prison
Daniel Khalife escaped wearing kitchen attire, Met Police confirm

Police are hunting a former soldier suspected of terror offences who escaped from prison on Wednesday morning.

Daniel Abed Khalife, 21, was awaiting trial at HMP Wandsworth, a category B prison in south-west London, after being accused of leaving fake bombs at a military base.

But he managed to escape the prison, with working theories suggesting he left via a prison kitchen by strapping himself to the underside of a food delivery van.

He is 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 said.

Police believe Khalife poses a "low risk" to the public but people are being urged not to approach him and to call 999 instead.

Khalife, who joined the Army in 2019, has links to the Kingston area of London and to the North West, 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 have been put on notice.

Airports and ports have been asked to carry out additional security measures, resulting in delays being reported across the UK, including at Heathrow Airport, Manchester Airport, and the Port of Dover.

Why was he in prison?

The former soldier was on remand awaiting trial 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.

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". He went missing for more than three weeks after the bomb hoax before his arrest on 26 January.

According to court documents, he allegedly placed “three canisters with wires at RAF Stafford with the intention of inducing in another a belief that the said article was likely to explode or ignite and thereby cause personal injury or damage to property”, contrary to section 51 of the Criminal Law Act 1977.

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.

How have people reacted?

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".

Justice Secretary Alex Chalk has ordered an investigation into the escape and has sought "reassurances about security at the prison".

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

"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.

Ian Acheson, a former prison governor who was head of security at HMP Wandsworth in the 1990s, said an accused terrorist should have been in a category A prison such as Belmarsh.

Acheson told the Times: “It is difficult to understand why someone facing those charges is at Wandsworth in the first place. And even then, why he’s in the kitchen, which is a security risk immediately because it involves handling knives. Did they do an effective risk assessment?”

Anne Widdecombe spoke about it in an interview with Times Radio:

How common are prison escapes?

Prison escapes have been rare in recent years, with just five since 2017, and fewer than 20 since 2010.

The last infamous escape involving terrorism inmates was the escape from Whitemoor prison in 1994 by IRA prisoners, the BBC reports.

A January 2022 report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons said a "serious security breach had led to an escape" from HMP Wandsworth in 2019.

The report said the inspectorate had been given "some assurance that action to prevent further escapes had been taken" but said "current local security data evidenced some concerns in the physical aspects of security".

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