Indonesian police said Friday the alleged coordinator of the 2002 Bali attacks has explained how he assembled the bombs and handed the switch to an accomplice.
Umar Patek has been cooperating with police interrogators since his extradition Thursday from Pakistan, where he was arrested in January in the town where Osama bin Laden was subsequently killed by US commandos.
“He has confessed to helping to assemble the bombs for the Bali bombing, and worked with Azahari. The switch was handed to Azahari,” police spokesman Anton Bachrul Alam said.
Azahari was a Malaysian extremist who police killed in a shootout in 2005 as they hunted members of the Jemaah Islamiyah terror network responsible for the Bali bombings, which killed 202 people mainly Western tourists.
Alam said Patek had also confessed to carrying out a series of church bombings in Indonesia on Christmas Eve 2000, which killed 19 people.
After the deadlier attacks on the resort island of Bali two years later, which made Indonesia a front-line state in the “war on terror” and triggered a massive manhunt, Patek fled to the Philippines.
Patek is also wanted in the Philippines, where he allegedly plotted attacks with militants after escaping the Indonesian dragnet.
He returned to Indonesia in 2009 to join Dulmatin, another Bali cohort who was setting up a regional terror cell dubbed Al-Qaeda in Aceh at the time. Police killed Dulmatin shortly afterwards.
“Umar Patek knew of the goings-on in Aceh (province). We hope that now he’s here, we can find out who else is in his network so we can go after them,” Alam said.
Patek, 41, may not be charged under Indonesia’s tough anti-terror law because his alleged crimes were committed before it was introduced. Even so he could face the death penalty for multiple murder counts.
As the last Bali mastermind still on the run, Patek was one of Asia’s most wanted terror suspects and a $1 million bounty on his head under the US rewards for justice programme.
He was arrested with his Filipina wife, who is also in Indonesian custody for allegedly travelling on a false Indonesian passport.
Indonesian officials are hoping Patek will give valuable information on JI and other Southeast Asian terror networks.
Defence minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro said previously there was information that he had been trying to meet bin Laden in Abbottabad before his arrest on January 25, but this has not been confirmed. -By Bay Ismoyo