The Government faced further embarrassment after it emerged that a suspected British extremist on the run after eluding a multi-million pound MI5 and police surveillance operation is a serial breaker of anti-terror orders that had seen him previously jailed for 15 months.
The Home Secretary faced demands to explain the failure of its “complacent” terrorist monitoring programme as Somali-born Ibrahim Magag remained missing amid speculation that he had fled abroad to join British jihadists in East Africa.
Mr Magag has a history of tampering with his monitoring equipment, lying about why he was late reporting home for a night-time curfew and used a computer in breach of the terms of an order designed to protect national security, according to 2010 High Court papers.
The 28-year-old – who has previously been known only as BX – was jailed for 15 months because of the breaches, according to a report last year by the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation David Anderson QC.
Mr Magag and nine other men are currently subject to a TPim (Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures) introduced in December 2011 as a last resort for suspects thought to pose a risk to national security but cannot be deported or put on trial.
The Home Office has declined to say if Mr Magag had been subject to tighter surveillance given his previous breaches but Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper demanded answers from both the Government and the police about how Mr Magag had been able to abscond.
Under the old regime, Mr Magag had been ordered to relocate to the West of England to take him away from a group of Britons believed to be fixers and financial backers for al-Qa’ida-linked terrorists in Somalia. But he was allowed to return to London under a new monitoring programme introduced by the Government in December 2011 that ended the controversial relocation rule.
He was last seen on Boxing Day evening in Camden, north London, and his name was made public for the first time on Monday after the Home Secretary applied to the High Court to lift the order on his anonymity.
Mr Magag was part of a group which had access to documents and passports and a known flight risk, but the alarm was raised after he skipped his night-time residency condition on Boxing Day. Police said he did not pose a direct threat to the British public “at this time”.
The Government had handed millions of pounds to MI5 for extra surveillance and investigations after critics claimed that it had “watered down” its terrorist monitoring programme. The extra funding led MI5 director general Jonathan Evans to conclude that “there should be no substantial increase in overall risk”.
Ms Cooper said: “Theresa May needs to explain rapidly why surveillance failed on Ibrahim Magag since Christmas and whether her decision to return him to London and to weaken legislation has made it easier for him to abscond and harder for the police to find him now.”
Labour MP Pat McFadden said the government’s changes in 2011 which also allowed suspects greater use of the Internet and mobile phones and limited the time they could be subject to the orders was a “civil liberties pose”.
“I believe this legislation has changed the balance of risk in what is at least a complacent way and, at worst, a highly dangerous way,” he said.
David Anderson QC said that the absconding was “very unwelcome news” and said that the government had been concerned in 2010 about the possibility Mr Magag would go back to East Africa.
“Until the end of last year he was relocated to the West of England because the Home Secretary supported by the courts believed that this was desirable to separate him from his network in London,” Mr Anderson said.
“We don’t know at this stage whether his return to London under TPIM made it easier for him to abscond.”