UK police arrest escaped terrorism suspect

LONDON (Reuters) -A former British soldier suspected of terrorism offences who escaped from prison earlier this week was recaptured in London on Saturday, police said.

Daniel Abed Khalife, 21, absconded from London’s Wandsworth prison on Wednesday morning after slipping out of the prison kitchen where he was working and strapping himself to the underside of 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 has 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.

(Reporting by James Davey; editing by Mark Heinrich and Ros Russell)