British police discover and arrest Daniel Khalife, fugitive terror suspect

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LONDON — A terrorism suspect whose sensational escape from a London prison launched a nationwide manhunt was found and arrested, the Metropolitan Police said.

Daniel Abed Khalife, the most wanted man in Britain, was arrested just before 11 a.m. on Saturday in an area of northwest London. He was cycling along a path next to a canal when he was pulled off the bike by a plainclothes police officer.

The details seemed like something out of a prison-break film. Khalife, 21, a former British soldier, was in jail awaiting trial on charges of breaking the Official Secrets Act and terrorism-related offenses. He slipped out of London’s Wandsworth prison early Wednesday morning. Police said they believed he escaped by clinging to the bottom of a food delivery van.

Prison breaks are very rare in the United Kingdom — only 10 inmates have broken out of prison in the past five years — and his escape kicked off a nationwide manhunt, which included enhanced checks at ports and airports. Police offered a £20,000 ($25,000) reward for information that led to his arrest. Officers also scoured Richmond Park in southwest London, one of London’s largest green spaces, famous for its deer.

On Saturday, police intensified their search in the Chiswick area of west London following “confirmed sightings in that area overnight, including calls from members of the public.” Police initially said he was arrested in the Chiswick area, but later said he was arrested in the Northolt area in northwest London, about 14 miles from the prison. He would have had to cross the River Thames to get there.

Video footage published by the Sun newspaper appeared to show him in handcuffs sitting close to a bicycle, grocery bag and sleeping bag. He was in a T-shirt and shorts; when he escaped prison, he was wearing a prison-issued chef’s uniform.

Speaking to reporters at the Group of 20 summit in New Delhi, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that he was “very pleased with the news,” and praised efforts by the police and the public, who came forward with “an enormous number of leads.”

London police assessed that his escape was preplanned and said they were investigating whether it was an inside job involving prison staff.

Metropolitan Police chief Mark Rowley said police were asking: “Did anyone inside the prison help him? Other prisoners, guard staff? Was he helped by people outside the walls or was it simply all of his own creation?”

British police hunt for prison escapee facing trial over ‘bomb hoax’

Khalife was described by officers as “very resourceful.” When police searched the food delivery van — 47 minutes after Khalife was declared missing — they said they found straps on the underside of the van. It’s unclear how he was able to source the straps.

Prison escapes are hard to pull off. How did these fugitives do it?

He has been awaiting trial on accusations of leaving fake bombs at Royal Air Force Stafford, the military base in England where he was stationed. He was also charged with trying to elicit information about another member of the British armed forces that could be used in preparing an act of terrorism. And he was accused of trying to spy for a hostile state, identified by the BBC as Iran.

Policing analysts said that the key breakthrough in the investigation probably came when a member of the public reported seeing the prisoner emerge from underneath the truck. Once that report was deemed credible, the police could concentrate efforts on that area and turn to the city’s extensive network of surveillance cameras. London is one of the most heavily surveilled cities in the world.

Wandsworth prison is a dystopian-looking facility in southwest London. It is one of only nine jails out of 119 in England and Wales that was rated a “serious concern” in an annual report by the Ministry of Justice. That is the lowest score possible for overall performance.

British Justice Secretary Alex Chalk said that he will leave “no stone unturned in getting to the bottom of how this serious breach was possible.”



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