A missing al-Shabab suspect does not pose a threat to the UK, Britain’s security chief said as opposition lawmakers voiced incredulity over how the man was able to escape by changing into women’s clothes at a London mosque.
The Metropolitan Police said on Monday it was still trying to find Mohammed Ahmed Mohamed, 27, one of about nine people subject to a restrictive form of government surveillance when he disappeared on Friday.
Authorities said security camera footage showed the Somali-born suspect slipping away from the mosque in a niqab, an all-encompassing garment worn by some Muslim women.
|This is a handout CCTV image issued by the Metropolitan Police of Mohamed leaving the mosque dressed in a niqab [AP]|
Mohamed is understood to have received training and fought overseas for the Somalia-based al-Shabab, the group that launched a deadly attack on a Nairobi shopping mall in September.
The minister with responsibility for Britain’s security , Theresa May, told lawmakers that security services do not believe Mohamed poses a direct threat to public safety.
He was being tracked under the government’s Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures, a stringent form of surveillance imposed on people suspected of ‘terror’ ties.
May said those measures were put in place to prevent Mohamed from travelling overseas.
It was still not clear how he managed to escape the programme’s GPS tagging.
May’s Labour Party opposition counterpart, Yvette Cooper, was not reassured, noting media reports that the suspect had attended armed group training camps. She told lawmakers that Mohamed was the second man in ten months who had escaped the anti-terror programme – “one in a black cab and another in disguise”.
May conceded that Mohamed’s disappearance was “a serious issue” and promised a review of the case.