Former British soldier suspected of terrorism offenses, who had escaped from prison earlier in the week, was arrested in London on Saturday (9), police said.
The absconder, 21-year-old Daniel Abed Khalife, had fled from Wandsworth prison in London on Wednesday (6) morning. He managed to slip out of the prison kitchen while on duty and secured himself underneath a food delivery truck.
“Officers apprehended him just before 11:00 a.m. (1000 GMT) hrs today … in the Chiswick area (of west London) and he is currently in police custody,” a police statement said.
Prime minister Rishi Sunak, speaking to reporters at the G20 gathering in New Delhi, thanked the police and the public for their help in finding Khalife.
Khalife, who was discharged from the British army in May, was being held in prison ahead of trial on offences relating to terrorism and the Official Secrets Act.
He is accused of eliciting or trying to elicit information likely to be useful to a person preparing an act of terrorism while he was based at barracks in central England in 2021, and staging a bomb hoax by placing three canisters with wires on a desk.
He is also charged with obtaining information which might be “directly or indirectly useful to an enemy”. The BBC reported he was accused of gathering intelligence for Iran.
Opposition lawmakers have demanded answers into how Khalife had been able to escape and why he was not being held at a maximum security prison.
There are also questions about the jail’s staffing and security procedures.
The hunt to track down Khalife meant enhanced security checks at UK ports and airports which have led to delays for passengers.
The Justice Secretary, Alex Chalk, confirmed that numerous prisoners were relocated from HMP Wandsworth following the escape of terrorism suspect Daniel Khalife.
Chalk told the BBC that “approximately” 40 inmates were moved during the week. This move came in response to inquiries regarding whether the 21-year-old should have been detained on remand at the Category B prison.
However, the minister said that “appropriate security protocols” had been implemented.
Khalife was arrested by a plain-clothed officer on a canal towpath in Northolt, concluding a four-day manhunt.
Chalk, has disclosed that initial investigations into the escape from Wandsworth prison have determined that appropriate security protocols and staffing levels were in effect at the time.
However, during an interview he emphasised the need to ascertain whether these protocols were adhered to as required.
Chalk has initiated two reviews in response to the incident, one concerning the circumstances surrounding the escape and another addressing prison categorisation.
Additionally, an independent investigation into the matter has been ordered.
In an earlier statement to Sky News, Chalk mentioned that, as a precautionary measure, several prisoners, including some on remand, were relocated from Wandsworth prison.
He noted the allocation of extra resources to Wandsworth, including additional governor support from an expert in security matters.
The Metropolitan Police confirmed that Khalife had been arrested on suspicion of being unlawfully at large and for escaping from custody.
A reward of up to £20,000 had been announced by the police for any information leading to Khalife’s arrest. Detectives reported receiving over 100 calls with information, but the reward remains unclaimed.
In another development, security sources suggest that Khalife was captured after intelligence agents from the UK’s new intelligence nerve centre, comprising operatives from MI5, MI6, and specialised police, conducted phone surveillance on individuals believed to be associated with him.
A member of the public had observed Khalife emerging from beneath a lorry near Wandsworth Roundabout shortly after his escape on September 6.
The Metropolitan Police initiated a review of CCTV footage and deployed a helicopter to search areas in west and south-west London.
On Friday (8) night, the police altered their investigative approach by conducting an “intelligence-led search at a residential premises” in the Richmond vicinity, although Khalife was not found there.
However, multiple reports from the public indicated sightings of the suspect in the vicinity.
Saturday (9) morning saw intensified search efforts in and around the Chiswick area, where Khalife had been sighted.
At approximately 10:41 BST on Saturday, some 14 miles from the prison, a plain-clothed officer apprehended Khalife by pulling him from a bicycle on the canal towpath in the Northolt area.
(With inputs from Reuters)