JAKARTA, Indonesia – An Indonesian militant who allegedly made the explosives used in the 2002 Bali bombings returned to his homeland under tight security Thursday, more than six months after he was captured in northwest Pakistan.
Umar Patek had a $1 million bounty on his head when authorities caught up with him Jan. 25 in Abbottabad — the same town where Osama bin Laden was killed in a U.S. commando attack four months later.
Indonesia's anti-terrorism chief, Ansyaad Mbai, told The Associated Press that it was no coincidence that Patek turned up in Abbottabad.
"Patek was very valuable for the U.S.," he said Wednesday, hours before the 41-year-old boarded an Indonesian plane sent to a Pakistani air force base just outside Islamabad.
"He helped lead authorities to bin Laden," Mbai said, without elaborating.
Patek touched down outside Indonesia's capital, Jakarta, on Thursday morning and was taken straight to a police detention center in the West Java town of Kelapa Dua, said an anti-terror official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.
No trial date has been announced yet.
Indonesian officials say Patek has confessed to playing a key role in the 2002 Bali bombings, which killed 202 people, many of them foreign tourists, including 88 Australians.
He also admitted to making the bombs used in a string of Christmas Eve attacks on churches in 2000 that claimed 19 lives, they say.
But because tough anti-terror laws passed after the Bali blasts cannot be applied retroactively, he will likely be charged with illegal possession of explosives, Mbai said.
Even though that charge also carries a maximum penalty of death, there are concerns he might get off easy.
Mbai said Patek has valuable intelligence about al-Qaida and links with its Southeast Asia affiliate, Jemaah Islamiyah, blamed for the Bali bombings and all other major attacks in Indonesia.
A highly praised anti-terrorism campaign in the country of 240 million has seen hundreds of suspects arrested and convicted in recent years.
But Patek is one of the biggest to have been captured alive.
Associated Press writers Munir Ahmed and Asif Shahzad contributed to this report from Islamabad.