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Fugitive switched identities before escape, linked to Syria terror group: report

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Fugitive switched identities before escape, linked to Syria terror group: report
People wait outside Copenhagen Central Station during Wednesday's evacuation. Photo: Henrik R. Petersen/Ritzau Scanpix
12:17 CEST+02:00
A man who escaped from the Vestre Fængsel prison in Copenhagen on Wednesday did so by switching identities with a visitor, the prison service has confirmed.

Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet reports that the escaped prisoner is a 46-year-old from Syria. This had not been confirmed by authorities at the time of writing.

The method of escape, which led to a two-hour, unsuccessful man hunt at Copenhagen Central Station on Wednesday evening, was confirmed by Denmark’s state prison service Kriminalforsorgen via a press statement.

According to the authority, the identity switch was discovered quickly but too late to prevent the escape. Copenhagen Police were subsequently notified, leading to a search for the man including the near-two-hour shutdown of the central rail station.

Ekstra Bladet reports that the fugitive is a 46-year-old Syrian linked to an Italian case regarding financing of terrorist group al-Nusra, a Syrian organisation connected to al-Qaeda. According to the newspaper, he has been remanded in custody in Denmark since January awaiting extradition to Italy.

A 27-year-old who swapped identities to facilitate the escape was arrested and later released.

"We don't believe he fulfils the criteria for preliminary detention, so he has been released, but will be charged under criminal law paragraph 124 on assisting escape," Deputy Chief Superintendent Brian Belling of Copenhagen Police told Ekstra Bladet.

Police said on Thursday that they did not consider the man a danger to the public, despite the decision to briefly evacuate Copenhagen Central Station during the search.

“We consider this to be a serious incident and decided evacuation was necessary. At the same time, we had people looking at his files who said he alone did not constitute a danger,” Peter Dahl, lead investigator with Copenhagen Police, told Ritzau.

Dahl declined to further comment on the case involving the man and therefore did not deny or confirm Ekstra Bladet’s report.

Vestre Fængsel prison is close to Copenhagen Central Station, making the search and closure necessary, but it is not certain the fugitive was at the station at any time, Dahl added.

The officer also confirmed the man’s current whereabouts are unknown.

Kriminalforsorgen said it had initiated an internal investigation into the escape, Politiken reports.

“This is naturally something that should not be allowed to happen and is highly regrettable. We are therefore now engaged in an internal investigation in order to find out which procedures failed and how we avoid similar incidents in future,” area director Anne Erlandsen of the authority’s Copenhagen regional section said in the press statement.

READ ALSO: Copenhagen station closed in police fugitive chase

Editor's note: this article has been updated to include the detail that the 27-year who was released by police will be charged for assisting the escape of a prisoner.

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