Pakistan captures accused plotter in 2002 Bali bombings
Umar Patek's presence in Pakistan raises new questions about ongoing collaboration between Southeast Asian Islamic militants and Al Qaeda.
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The US had offered a $1 million reward for information leading to Umar Patek's capture and is likely to have sought access to him in Pakistan, both as a potential source of intelligence on Al Qaeda’s current operations as well as Southeast Asia terror plots.
Until recently, Southeast Asian intelligence officials had thought that Mr. Patek, a slight Javanese-Arab also known as “Little Umar,” was hiding out on Mindanao, the second largest island in the Philippines. His presence in Pakistan raises questions about ongoing collaboration between Southeast Asian militants and Al Qaeda or other Pakistan-based groups.
Patek is also wanted by both Indonesia and the Philippines, where he trained militants and sought haven with extremist groups on Mindanao. On Wednesday, Indonesian police that they were sending a team to Pakistan to follow up on his arrest and may try to bring him home to stand trial.
“Our intelligence team is verifying the information with the Pakistani authorities to confirm if the person arrested was really him," an Indonesian counter-terrorism official, Ansyaad Mbai, told Agence-France Presse. “If it's him, then that's really good news for us.”
The US government hasn’t commented on the detention, and it’s unclear if it was the result of US-Pakistan collaboration against jihadist groups. Security ties between the two countries were strained by the arrest of Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor, who shot two men in Lahore in January and was later released after payments were made to the victims’ families.
Patek is a senior member of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), a militant group set up in the 1990s by radical clerics and Afghan-trained jihadists from Southeast Asia. The group carried out the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings, which killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists, and other attacks on Western targets in Indonesia. The most recent incident was twin hotel bombings in Jakarta in July 2009, blamed on a JI splinter group.