Bali bombing suspect Umar Patek was concerned that violence against civilians went against Islamic teachings and created a bad image for Muslims, according to a fellow militant who testified at his trial
Umar Patek disagreed with the extremist programme of carrying out violent attacks because he felt it represented a misinterpretation of jihad and would create a bad image for Muslims, an ex-militant told the West Jakarta District Court on Thursday (April 3rd).
Patek, alleged to have played a key role in building the car bomb that killed 202 people at a nightclub in Bali’s Kuta area in October 2002, faces terrorism charges that could bring him the death penalty should he be convicted.
According to a court document, Patek fled to the Philippines after the 2002 blast and joined the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which has been waging an armed campaign for autonomy. The Philippines insurgents, who deny being connected to al-Qaeda or Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), are currently in peace negotiations with the Philippines government.
“I did not know if Patek was involved in the 2002 Bali bomb attack because he never told me about it,” testified Iqbal Huseini, an Indonesian jihadist, who joined the MILF in 2003.
“But he always said that he disagreed with all the attack programmes in Indonesia because Indonesia is not a war zone and it is against the message of jihad,” he said.
Moreover, Iqbal said, Patek on one occasion quarreled with JI cell leader Sayid Ali, nicknamed Dulmatin, over the latter’s plan to explode bombs at several locations as a form of revenge against Indonesian security forces.
“Although Sayid was the leader, Patek was strongly against the idea. It was because those targeted points are Islam-majority areas and he reminded us that our enemy is not civil society,” he continued.
Mass casualty attacks by al-Qaeda-linked extremists jolted Indonesia during the past decade, but the capture or killing of key JI leaders as well as public revulsions against the carnage has blunted the trend.
Al-Qaeda itself is believed to be in disarray, suffering the loss of personnel and a steadily deteriorating reputation among Muslims. Thursday’s testimony came amid revelations that Osama bin Laden himself was deeply concerned about the trend during the months leading up to his death in May 2011.
A selection of memos found at the bin Laden’s Abbottabad hideout was released Thursday by the US government. In one document, dating from 2010, bin Laden expresses alarm that al-Qaeda has become stigmatised because of its role in killing thousands of Muslim civilians.
A 2006 letter addressed by a “loving brother whom you know and who knows you” complains that the word jihad has fallen into disrepute due to al-Qaeda’s tactics, and calls for bin Laden to change his ways.
Although Patek was captured in Abbottabad in January 2011, not far from bin Laden’s compound, it has not yet been established whether or not he had tried to contact the al-Qaeda leader.
Thursday’s testimony provided possible insights into the shadowy world of militant extremists, who cross borders to wage religious warfare. The MILF fighters he met included Malaysians as well as Indonesians and Filipinos, Iqbal told the court.
He said he was taught to use many kinds of weapons after arriving at the MILF camp.
“While I was there, I was trained to use arm guns such as M16 rifles, long rifles and also mortars, to read a map and also about war strategy. MILF provided all the arm guns with a registration number. Therefore if we left the camp, we had to return it back to them,” he said. “However, we were not trained to build any bomb at all.”
Patek often gave briefings to Indonesian volunteers with the MLIF, especially on the topics of war strategy and the purpose of jihad. He believed jihad should only be carried out in areas of conflict, Iqbal said.
The trial proceedings will resume on Monday.