Militant's road ends in Pakistan

April 14, 2011


Abdul Hameed speaks during an interview at his house in Abbottabad.—AP

ABBOTTABAD: A hailstorm was lashing Abbottabad when Abdul Hameed’s son came to his room with an unusual request: He had come across a foreign couple, cold and shivering in the street, and could he give them food and shelter for a few days?

Hameed had spare rooms on the second-floor that he occasionally let out. His wife urged him to let the couple stay.

The couple were mysterious, never leaving their room, Hameed, a retired accountant, said. Hameed’s youngest daughter left the guests a tray of food three times a day only to return to find it barely touched, he said.

Around nine days later, the identity of the male guest became clear, when a squad of heavily armed intelligence agents raided the home.

“Keep your mouth shut and your hands up,” they told Hameed and his family as they went room to room and then upstairs. Two shots rang out, and minutes later they hauled the man, bleeding, out the building.

The run of good luck had ended for Umar Patek, an Al Qaeda-linked Indonesian militant who for 10 years had been on the run from a $1 million American bounty on his head, for allegedly helping mastermind the 2002 suicide bombings of nightclubs in Bali that killed 202 people.

Pakistani officials had kept Patek’s detention on Jan 25 secret until two weeks ago. Patek had intended to travel along with two French militants to North Waziristan, according to a Pakistani intelligence official.

Patek, who trained with Al Qaeda in Pakistan before the Sept 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, was able to remain plugged into transnational terror networks despite being one of the world’s most wanted militants.

Patek, a slightly built 40-year-old, is now believed to be in a Pakistan Army hospital being treated for bullet wounds to his legs, according to Indonesian officials.

There has been no word on the whereabouts of Patek’s wife, who has been described as either Indonesian or Filipino.

Questions also remain over his fate, and there are signs he may be caught up in tensions between ISI and the CIA, which have previously cooperated during terror arrests and would like access to him.

Islamabad has said it will not hand Patek over to the CIA and that he will be sent to Indonesia. But officials in Jakarta don’t appear that keen to have him, and have expressed doubts whether they could make charges stick against him for his alleged role in the Bali attacks.

Officials did not say how or why Patek ended up in Abbottabad, but his arrest followed the detention of an alleged Al Qaeda facilitator in the town called Tahir Shehzad, who worked as a clerk at the post office.

Shehzad had been under surveillance since last year when he was spotted in Abbottabad with an Arab terror suspect, said the intelligence official.

When Shehzad left town on Jan 23, agents followed him to Lahore, where he was arrested with the two French militants, whom he had picked up from the international airport there, the official said.