An Indonesian militant charged in the 2002 Bali terrorist attacks told interrogators he spent weeks holed up in a rented house, painstakingly building a half-tonne bomb using household items including a rice ladle, a grocer’s scale and plastic bags.
A transcript of Umar Patek’s interrogation offers extraordinary detail of the Bali plot just days before Patek — a radical Islamist once Southeast Asia’s most-wanted bomb-making suspect — goes on trial in Jakarta for his alleged role in the nightclub attack that killed 202 people.
Patek, known as “Demolition Man” for his expertise with explosives, says he and other conspirators stashed the 700kg bomb in four filing cabinets, loaded them in a Mitsubishi L300 van along with a TNT vest bomb. The van was detonated outside two nightclubs on Bali’s famous Kuta beach on Oct. 12, 2002. Most of those killed were foreign tourists.
The suspect told police that a small explosion occurred when they were loading the bomb in a van, nearly derailing the plot, according to the transcript.
Although homemade bombs are easily assembled by militants all over the world, making such powerful devices as those used in Bali — and using such unsophisticated equipment — would have taken an enormous amount of care and expertise.
Patek, 45, goes on trial tomorrow following a nine-year flight from justice that took him from Indonesia to the Philippines to Pakistan, reportedly in pursuit of more terrorism opportunities.
He was finally caught in January last year, in the same Pakistani town where US Navy Seals would kill Osama bin Laden just a few months later. Patek was hiding out in a second-floor room in a house in Abbottabad, a US$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 (JI), 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 interrogation report and other documents 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 interviewed officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized 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 JI by Dulmatin, a fellow militant who was gunned down by Indonesian police in March 2010.