Thursday, March 31, 2011

JIHADIS may be planning new terrorist attacks against Westerners in Indonesia, according to the Foreign Affairs Department, with the arrest of a key Bali bombings suspect inflaming tensions on the archipelago.

Umar Patek, south-east Asia's most wanted terrorist suspect and known in Indonesia as the ''Little Arab'', was arrested several weeks ago in Pakistan following a tipoff from the CIA.

He is suspected to have been Jemaah Islamiyah's deputy field commander during the 2002 nightclub bombings in Bali and personally helped build the car bomb that ripped through the Sari Club.
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Indonesia's spy chief, Sutanto, said Umar Patek was captured following a violent raid, in which he was injured. His wife was also captured in the raid, he said.

''He has been arrested and he is currently in custody in Pakistan,'' Pakistani military spokesman Major-General Athar Abbas told The Age yesterday.

But General Abbas declined to confirm reports coming from Pakistan that Patek had confessed to his role in the Bali bombings as well as disclosing details of further terrorist plots, including attacks targeting Australians.

Reports by Pakistani media yesterday suggested Patek, who has eluded capture for the past decade despite a US$1 million reward, may have already provided information of use to counter-terrorism officials.

''Umar has given key information related to terrorism plots in Australia and other countries,'' a Pakistani wire service reported, citing unnamed security sources.

But a senior Australian counterterrorism source cautioned against assuming that Patek had provided information about new attacks, noting that if the information was obtained through torture, it might be unreliable.

Late yesterday the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade released an updated travel advisory for Indonesia, saying Patek's arrest ''may increase the risk of violent responses in Indonesia in the short term'', and citing new information that strengthened fears of new attacks in Indonesia.

''Information in March 2011 indicates that terrorists may be planning attacks in Indonesia which could take place at any time,'' the advisory stated.

A spokeswoman for DFAT declined to comment on what that information was, but it is believed it did not come from the interrogation of Patek.

''We consider that any terrorist attacks are more likely to focus on places where large numbers of Westerners gather, including, but not limited to, tourist areas in islands such as Bali [and] Jakarta.''

Asked about the advisory, Indonesian foreign affairs spokesman Michael Tene said he was unaware of the new information it referred to.

''Such warnings have to reflect the situation in Indonesia,'' he said. ''It should not be exaggerated.''

Patek's ultimate destination is yet to be decided.

Indonesian police are already in Pakistan to identify him.

Sources said he would be extradited to Indonesia, but Australia, the US and the Philippines could also lay claims.


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