A manhunt has been launched for a British soldier awaiting trial on terror charges after he escaped from a London prison on Wednesday while dressed as a chef, officials say.
Daniel Abed Khalife, 21, went missing from Wandsworth prison, in the southwest of the British capital, shortly before 8 a.m. local time. He had been awaiting trial for terror offenses and alleged breaches of the Official Secrets Act.
Khalife is a serving member of the British army. He is accused of planting fake bombs at a military base, according to the PA Media news agency.
The audacious and rare escape prompted a sprawling manhunt that delayed flights and led to heightened checks at British ports.
Khalife was dressed in a “chef’s uniform, so red and white trousers, white t-shirt and brown shoes,” Met Counter Terrorism Commander Dominic Murphy told journalists outside Scotland Yard in London on Wednesday.
He reportedly escaped by clinging onto a delivery van, according to PA News agency. When asked about the reports, Murphy said it was a question the prison service had to answer.
Police are appealing the British public to help the search.
He is of slim build, has short brown hair and is around 6 feet and 2 inches tall, officers said.
Murphy said London is the focus of the investigation currently, but that “we also have notifications out to very force in the country.”
“We are working really closely with border colleagues to try and understand any risk that might be posed by him leaving the country so at the moment you could describe this as a nationwide manhunt involving every force in the country that has information that might be of use to us,” Murphy continued.
Asked whether he expects the man to flee the country, Murphy said: “It’s difficult to say at this moment in time. We are open minded to wherever he might go, and I think that’s why the appeal to the public is so important because actually he’s currently at large in the UK and whilst we are focusing on London he is connected to other parts of the UK, including the northwest of the country, so we need to work with everybody to try and find him.”
The police announced the charges against Khalife in January. At the time, they alleged he “elicited or attempted to elicit information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism” in August 2021.
Another charge alleged he placed an item “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.”
Murphy said Wednesday that he believes the threat posed by Khalife to the public to be low, but urged “as a matter of normal course” that citizens do not approach him.
British airports and ports are also experiencing disruption after counter-terrorism police alerted the country’s airports and ports to Khalife’s escape.
Manchester Airport was facing delays of up to 30 minutes on Wednesday afternoon after introducing extra security checks, according to PA Media.
Meanwhile, Port of Dover Travel posted on X, formerly known as Twitter: “Due to a police matter, there are currently enhanced checks on outbound traffic at the Port of Dover and other portals within the UK.
“Please be advised this is currently resulting in some delays at the port.”
UK prison escapes are a rare occurrence. Data from the British government shows that there was just one escape across England and Wales in 2021-22, none in the proceeding period, and only a handful in the years prior to that.
Wandsworth is a Category B prison, the second-highest security level of four. It is one of Britain’s largest prisons, holding more than 1,600 inmates.