Terror suspect in Bali bombings arrested in Pakistan

Last Updated: Thursday, March 31, 2011 - 00:09

Washington: A senior Indonesian al-Qaeda
operative wanted in the 2002 Bali bombings has been arrested
in Pakistan, a rare high-profile capture that could provide
valuable intelligence about the organisation and possible
future plots.

Umar Patek, a suspected member of the al-Qaeda-linked
militant group Jemaah Islamiyah, was arrested this year in
Pakistan, foreign intelligence sources said yesterday.

It is not clear whether Pakistan stumbled on Patek or
his capture was the result of an intelligence tip. Details
about what he was doing in Pakistan also remain murky, raising
questions about whether he was there to plan an attack with
al-Qaeda`s top operational leaders as the 10th anniversary of
the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States
approaches.

Patek, 40, a Javanese Arab, is well-known to
intelligence agencies across the world. He is believed to have
served as the group`s deputy field commander in the nightclub
bombings that left 202 people dead, many of them foreigners.

The US was offering a USD 1 million reward for the
arrest of the slight Patek, who is known as the "little Arab"
in the attack that killed seven Americans.

News of his arrest came from two intelligence
officials in Indonesia and Philippines. Patek`s exact
whereabouts were not immediately known. Both spoke on
condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the
information.

The question of what to do with him could become a key
indicator of how President Barack Obama will handle major
terrorist suspects captured abroad. However, American
officials declined to comment on the case.

Under former President George W Bush, he likely would
have been moved into the CIA`s network of secret prisons. For
instance, one of Patek`s accused co-conspirators in the
nightclub bombing, Hambali, spent years in the prison system
and is now being held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

But the CIA`s secret prisons are closed and Obama is
trying to empty Guantanamo, not add new inmates.
Patek is believed to have been among a group of
Indonesians, Malaysians and Filipinos who travelled to
Afghanistan and Pakistan during the 1980s and 1990s for
training and fighting.

On their return to Southeast Asia, they formed Jemaah
Islamiyah, blamed for a string of suicide bombings targeting
nightclubs, restaurants, hotels, and a Western embassy in
Indonesia. Together more than 260 people have died.

Patek fled to the southern Philippines after the Bali
bombings, seeking refuge and training with both the Moro
Islamic Liberation Front, the largest Muslim separatist group,
and later, the al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf, security experts
have said.

PTI



First Published: Thursday, March 31, 2011 - 00:09

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