Missing terror suspect escaped surveillance
Pressure is mounting on the UK government to explain how an al Qaida-linked terror suspect escaped surveillance by changing into a burka during a visit to a mosque.
Mohammed Ahmed Mohamed is understood to have received training and fought overseas for al-Shabaab, the Somalia-based cell of the militant Islamist group.
The 27-year-old entered a west London mosque on Friday in Western-style clothes but CCTV images later showed him leaving with his face and body fully covered by the traditional Islamic garment.
He is subject to a Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (Tpim) notice, which was imposed primarily to prevent overseas travel.
He is the second person to breach a Tpim since they were introduced to replace control orders in early 2012. Ibrahim Magag ripped off his electronic tag last December and vanished in a black cab.
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper described the situation as "extremely serious" and demanded more information from Home Secretary Theresa May on how Mohamed was able to abscond.
"Clearly police and security agencies will be doing everything possible to locate this terror suspect and ensure public safety," she said.
"The Home Secretary also needs to provide information about the decisions made over Mohammed Ahmed Mohamed's Tpim, how he was able to abscond and what the risks to the public are."
Ms Cooper added that Ms May needs to "provide rapid information about the extent and adequacy of the restrictions" on Mohamed.
Somalia-born Mohamed, who is 5ft 8in and of medium build, is "not considered at this time to represent a direct threat to the public", Scotland Yard said.
He was named after a court-imposed anonymity order was lifted by the Home Secretary to allow police to make a public appeal.
He arrived at the An-Noor Masjid and Community Centre in Church Road, Acton, at 10am on Friday and was last seen there at 3.15pm that day.
A Scotland Yard spokesman said: "The Counter Terrorism Command immediately launched inquiries to trace Mr Mohamed and these continue.
"Ports and borders were notified with his photograph and details circulated nationally. Public safety remains our priority."
Tpims, which include restrictions on overnight residence, travel and finance, are imposed by the Home Secretary who is given access to secret evidence that cannot be placed before juries. They do not allow for the relocation of suspects, as control orders did.
Unlike control orders, Tpims have a maximum time limit of two years. Control orders could be extended year on year without limit, while Tpims can be extended after a year for another 12 months before they expire.
There were nine Tpims in force as of August 31, including eight against British suspects.
Mohamed's disappearance prompted David Anderson QC, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, to reveal criminal charges had been dropped on Friday against a number of Tpim subjects for allegedly tampering with electronic monitoring tags. It is not known whether Mohamed was among the subjects.
The terrorism watchdog warned earlier this year that Tpims could allow those deemed potentially dangerous to be left "free and unconstrained" in the absence of prosecution or new evidence of terrorism-related activity.
Mr Anderson said in his first report on Tpims in March that the two-year limit was the "boldest" change from control orders made by the Government, adding that it was "tempting, in the most serious cases, to wish for longer".
Commenting after Mohamed's disappearance, Mr Anderson said prosecutions for Tpim breaches are "difficult".
He added: "Criminal charges against a number of Tpim subjects for allegedly breaching the terms of their Tpims by tampering with their GPS tags were dropped on Friday after no evidence was offered by the Crown."
Security Minister James Brokenshire defended the measures, describing them as providing a "robust mechanism" to manage suspects and reassure the public.
He said: "National security is the Government's top priority and the police are doing everything in their power to apprehend this man as quickly as possible. The police and security services do not believe that this man poses a direct threat to the public in the UK."
Magag, a 28-year-old Somali, has not been seen since Boxing Day last year.
He is thought to be a member of a UK-based group of extremists who support the Al Shabaab terrorist organisation in east Africa.
Magag was made the subject of a stringent control order in 2009 but the restrictions expired when control orders were replaced by Tpims last year.
An-Noor Masjid and Community Centre said it did not intend to comment.