Jakarta: An Indonesian terrorism suspect known as "Demolition Man" for his expertise with explosives told interrogators he used common household items, including a rice ladle and a kitchen scale, to build a massive bomb that ripped apart nightclubs on the tourist island of Bali, documents obtained by a news agency show.
After more than a month of painstaking work, Umar Patek stashed the 1,540-pound (700-kilogram) bomb in four filing cabinets installed in a van along with a vest bomb that ripped apart two nightclubs on October 12, 2002, killing 202 people, according to the documents detailing his interrogation. Most victims were foreign tourists.
Patek goes on trial on Monday for his alleged role in the Bali bombings and other alleged acts of terrorism following a nine-year flight from justice that took him from Indonesia to the Philippines to Pakistan, reportedly in pursuit of more terrorism opportunities.
The 45-year-old Indonesian was finally caught in January 2011 in the same Pakistani town where US Navy Seals would kill Osama bin Laden just a few months later. Patek, Southeast Asia`s most notorious bombmaking suspect, was hiding out in a second-floor room of a house in Abbottabad, a USD 1 million bounty on his head, when Pakistani security forces, acting on a tip from the CIA, burst in.
After a firefight that left Patek wounded, he was captured and extradited to Indonesia.
His capture was seen as a yardstick of the successes that Asian security forces, with US help, have achieved against Jemaah Islamiyah, the al Qaeda-linked regional terror group blamed for the Bali bombings and several other attacks in Indonesia. All its other leaders have been executed, killed by security forces, or are on death row.
Patek is charged with premeditated murder, hiding information about terrorism, illegal possession of explosives and conspiracy to commit terrorism, and now faces a possible death sentence as well. The indictment also accuses Patek of providing explosives for a string of Christmas Eve attacks on churches in 2000 that claimed 19 lives.
Interviews with intelligence officials in Indonesia and the Philippines, the indictment, an interrogation report and other documents obtained by the agency reveal the peripatetic life Patek led after the Bali attacks as he ranged widely and freely, often without passing through immigration checks, while allegedly passing along his bomb-making skills to other terrorists. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorised to discuss intelligence matters with reporters.
Patek, whose real name is Hisyam bin Alizein, is the son of a goat meat trader. He went to computer school and learned English before being recruited into Jemaah Islamiyah by Dulmatin, a fellow militant who was gunned down by Indonesian police in March 2010.
After his arrest, Patek told his interrogators that he learned to make bombs during a 1991-1994 stint at a militant academy in Pakistan`s Sadda province, and later in Turkhom, Afghanistan, where bomb-making courses ranged "from basic to very difficult”.
The Bali bomb was made using common household tools, he said, including a rice ladle and a small weighing machine commonly used in kitchens or grocery stores. Dulmatin made the electronic circuit board, he said. It took more than a month to build the bomb, and its components were stashed in four filing cabinets installed inside a van.
Just before midnight on October 12, 2002, the terrorists drove the van to Bali`s Kuta district and detonated the bomb. Patek had left Bali a few days earlier. His involvement ended after making the bomb.
Afterward, officials said, Patek and Dulmatin went to the Philippines and allegedly joined forces with the local extremist group Abu Sayyaf, spending the next several years training militants and plotting attacks, including against US troops in the Philippines.
Meanwhile, three of the masterminds of the Bali attacks — Imam Samudra, and brothers Amrozi Nurhasyim and Ali Ghufron — were tried and executed.
Patek returned to Indonesia in June 2009, living in various rented houses in Jakarta. He held several meetings with radicals and aspiring militants at home, and held assault rifle and bomb-making training sessions at a beach in Banten near Jakarta. Among those he met was Abdullah Sunata, one of Indonesia`s top terrorism suspects, who has been sentenced to 10 years in jail.
But Patek`s heart was set on going to Afghanistan to fight alongside the Taliban or other extremist groups, said Ansyaad Mbai, Indonesia`s anti-terrorism chief.
He told the agency that Patek intended to continue his fight in a more defined battleground with a larger radical group, and refused Dulmatin`s offer to become an instructor in a new militant camp in Indonesia`s Aceh province.
"He wanted to fight with a larger extremist group, and Afghanistan was the ideal battleground for him," Mbai said.
But to reach Afghanistan, he would have to go to Pakistan first.
A police investigator said that a 37-year-old Pakistani in Indonesia, Nadeem Akhtar, helped Patek get a Pakistani visa from his embassy in Jakarta.
Akhtar, who ran a shop selling fashion accessories in a Jakarta mall, was deported by Indonesian authorities on August 27, 2010, for overstaying his visa. Three days later, Patek and his Filipino wife followed, using forged passports.
Akhtar picked up the couple at the Lahore airport and gave them shelter at his house in Multan town for two months. A courier with links to al Qaeda then brought Patek to Abbottabad, possibly to meet with bin Laden.
Mbai did not rule out the possibility that Patek went to Abbottabad to not only gain a foothold into Afghanistan but also to obtain funds for setting up a militant training camp in Jolo in southern Philippines.
But before he could make much progress or meet bin Laden, he was caught.
Patek`s trial not only seeks justice for the Bali bombings, but also is a coup for intelligence officials. He is believed to have valuable information about al Qaeda and its links with Jemaah Islamiyah, which was founded by Indonesian exiles in Malaysia in the early 1990s.
The Bali bombing remains JI`s most spectacular attack, and hammered home the fact that Southeast Asian militants were using terror to achieve their aim of creating an Islamic caliphate across the region far before the September 11, 2001, attacks in the US.
Though there have been several more attacks since Bali, none has been as deadly. Analysts credit a crackdown that has netted more than 700 militants since 2000, including the death of several key leaders in police action.
But even with the arrest of Patek, Jemaah Islamiyah`s last major leader, the terror threat persists. Dozens of JI members are due for release over the next three years, some with an even greater commitment to deadly jihad than when they began their sentences, Mbai said.
"Terrorism doesn`t automatically end with the capture and death of terror leaders," Mbai said, "It has metamorphosed into multiple new cell and tactics because it is motivated by radical ideology."