London: A manhunt is currently underway for a British soldier awaiting trial on terror charges after he escaped from a London prison while dressed as a chef and by clinging onto a delivery van, according to officials.
Daniel Abed Khalife, 21, went missing from Wandsworth prison, in the southwest of the British capital, shortly before 8 a.m. on Wednesday, reports CNN.
He had been awaiting trial for terror offenses and alleged breaches of the Official Secrets Act.
Khalife, a serving member of the British army, is accused of planting fake bombs at a military base, according to British media reports.
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”, CNN quoted Met Counter Terrorism Commander Dominic Murphy as saying to reporters outside Scotland Yard in London on Wednesday evening.
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.
The Prison Service is working with the Metropolitan Police to “urgently investigate” how Khalife escaped.
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 further said London is the focus of the investigation currently, but that “we also have notifications out to very force in the country”, reports CNN.
“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,” he added.
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.
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.