JAKARTA, Indonesia — An Indonesian militant charged in the 2002 Bali terrorist attacks has told interrogators he spent weeks holed up in a rented house, painstakingly building a half-ton bomb using household items including a rice ladle, a grocer's scale and plastic bags.
A transcript of the Umar Patek's interrogation obtained by AP 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 1,540-pound (700-kilogram) 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 12 October, 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 enormous amount of care and expertise.
Patek, 45, goes on trial Monday 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 2011 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 of 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, 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 obtained by the AP 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 Jemaah Islamiyah by Dulmatin, a fellow militant who was gunned down by Indonesian police in March 2010.
After his arrest, Patek told his interrogators that he learned to make bombs during a 1991-1994 stint at a militant academy in Pakistan's Sadda province, and later in Turkhom, Afghanistan, where bomb-making courses ranged "from basic to very difficult."
He said he was living in Solo, Indonesia, when mastermind Imam Samudra approached him to make a bomb in Bali. He agreed and flew to Denpasar, Bali's capital, and was taken to a rented house.
"In one room of the house, I began to mix the explosive ingredients, which were already in the rental house," he said.
"For about three weeks, I made the explosive ingredients into black powder with the assistance of Sawad (a co-conspirator). For tools used in the mixing of the ingredients, I used (a) scale that will usually be used in a food store, rice ladle and plastic bags as containers."
Dulmatin separately worked on the electronic circuits, which were later attached as detonators to the bombs packed into the filing cabinets.
"When we were lifting the filing cabinets into the white L300 van, an explosion occurred which was caused by friction of the filing cabinet with the floor of the room, because the floor still had some leftover black powder on it," he said.
Patek left Bali a few days before the attacks were carried out.
Afterward, officials said, Patek and Dulmatin went to the Philippines and allegedly joined forces with the local extremist group Abu Sayyaf, spending the next several years training militants and plotting attacks, including against US troops in the Philippines.
Meanwhile, Imam Samudra and two other masterminds of the Bali attacks — brothers Amrozi Nurhasyim and Ali Ghufron — were caught, tried and executed.
Patek returned to Indonesia in June 2009, living in various rented houses in Jakarta. He held several meetings with radicals and aspiring militants at home and held assault rifle and bomb-making training sessions at a beach in Banten near Jakarta.
But Patek's heart was set on going to Afghanistan to fight alongside the Taliban or other extremist groups, said Ansyaad Mbai, Indonesia's anti-terrorism chief.
He told AP that Patek intended to continue his fight in a more defined battleground with a larger radical group, and refused Dulmatin's offer to become an instructor in a new militant camp in Indonesia's Aceh province.
"He wanted to fight with a larger extremist group, and Afghanistan was the ideal battleground for him," Mbai said.
But to reach Afghanistan, he would have to go to Pakistan first.
A police investigator said that a 37-year-old Pakistani in Indonesia, Nadeem Akhtar, helped Patek get a Pakistani visa from his embassy in Jakarta.
After Patek arrived in Lahore, a courier with links to Al-Qaeda then brought him to Abbottabad, possibly to meet with bin Laden.
Mbai did not rule out the possibility that Patek went to Abbottabad to not only gain a foothold into Afghanistan but also to obtain funds for setting up a militant training camp in Jolo in southern Philippines.
But before he could make much progress or meet bin Laden, he was caught.
Patek's trial not only seeks justice for the Bali bombings, but also is a coup for intelligence officials. He is believed to have valuable information about al-Qaida and its links with Jemaah Islamiyah, which was founded by Indonesian exiles in Malaysia in the early 1990s.
The Bali bombing remains JI's most spectacular attack — there have been several others since, but none as deadly. Analysts credit a crackdown that has netted more than 700 militants since 2000, including the death of several key leaders in police action.