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Global terror: Victory consolidated

Publication Date : 25-06-2012


The sentencing of Indonesian Umar Patek by a Jakarta court to 20 years in jail consolidates the victory against global terrorism that started with the killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011.

Patek, the man who devised the bombs that killed 200 people at Bali nightclubs in October 2002, was arrested in the same Pakistan town where US forces tracked down and killed Bin Laden, the man behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Centre’s Twin Towers in New York.

Now both Bin Laden and Patek have been either killed or jailed. Justice has been, more or less, served the victims, and extremism has been disabled.

For the Philippines, the conviction and jailing of Patek should be a welcome development since until his arrest, he was the country’s most wanted man. He is suspected to be behind the January 2011 bombing of a bus on Edsa in Makati City, which left five people dead.

Married to a Filipina, Ruqayyah binti Husein Luceno, Patek stayed for eight years in Mindanao where he fled after the Bali bombings. He found safe refuge in the south where he worked along with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Abu Sayyaf kidnap-for-ransom gang.

Meanwhile, he made trips to Indonesia and worked with the Jemaah Islamiyah, the Southeast Asian splinter group of al-Qaida, in setting up a militant camp in Aceh. Thus, Patek thrived and carried out his activities in the Philippine south where he found a conflict-riven environment that welcomed his brand of extremism.

To their credit, Indonesian authorities prosecuted Patek with firmness and determination, sentencing him to jail and dealing a lethal blow against Jemaah Islamiyah and terrorism. It has also sentenced Patek’s wife to 27 months in jail for immigration violations.

Three of the masterminds of the Bali bombings—Imam Samudra, Amrozi bin Nurhasyim and Ali Ghufron—were executed in 2008. Patek was the last of the accused to stand trial in Indonesia. He got a jail term instead of death penalty because he had expressed remorse for what he did.

For Indonesia, which has the world’s largest Muslim population, the 2002 Bali bombings were a watershed. Bali is a Javanese community that’s Indonesia’s prime tourist site, drawing Western tourists by the thousands every year. The bombings by fundamentalist Muslims of a non-Muslim resort town were a blow to the secular state and the multiculturalism and respect for religions Bali has vowed to protect and promote.

The attacks forced the state to confront the presence of violent militants. Previous to Bali, there had been attacks on Christian churches, much like the attacks on Christian churches and the  kidnapping of  missionaries in Mindanao. True enough, among the charges Patek faced was a series of bombings that targeted Christian churches in Aceh.

Although the jailing of Patek is a decisive blow against extremism, the campaign against terrorism must not rest. Patek belongs to a generation of extremists who continue to operate even if they’re on the run. Many of this generation, like Patek, trained and fought in Pakistan and Afghanistan in the early 1990s and were deeply influenced by Bin Laden’s teachings.

Patek’s co-refugee when he was in Mindanao was Dulmatin, another former Jemaah Islamiyah member, who returned to Indonesia and helped set up a military-style training camp in the province of Aceh. He was killed in a police raid just outside Jakarta in March 2010.

For Philippine authorities, the killing of Dulmatin and the capture of Patek should be instructive, if a bit humiliating. The two had consistently evaded capture by the Philippines’ military and police when they were in Mindanao in the last decade. In 2008 while their comrades faced the firing squad in Jakarta, Patek and Dulmatin were playing hide-and-seek with government forces.

At one point, the Western Mindanao Command made the utterly laughable claim that the two were doling out money to communities so as to elude the military dragnet. The episode illustrates why Indonesia is winning the war against terrorism while the Philippines is losing it. Indonesia delivers results, the Philippines delivers alibis.


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