Manila – To throw the Indonesian authorities off their trail, two Jemaah Islamiah (JI) leaders have gone "independent" by severing ties with the group two years ago. However, the duo, Dulmatin and Umar Patek, remain equally dangerous, having established a base in southern Philippines and are planning to launch attacks in both countries, said a captured militant.
Abdullah Sunata, an alleged rebel leader captured in Indonesia in June, told his interrogators that Dulmatin and Patek had trained and plotted attacks from their base in the southern Philippine province of Mindanao, reported Associated Press. Its report was based on a copy of the confidential report on Sunata's interrogation in Indonesia.
Dulmatin is an electronics specialist known for his bomb-making expertise while Patek's task is to recruit and train new members.
In October, the US government announced rewards of up to US$10 million for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Dulmatin, and up to US$1 million for the capture of Patek, citing their alleged role in the 2002 Bali bombings and involvement in Jemaah Islamiah.
According to Sunata, the two men told him in 2003 that they had cut their ties with JI amid an intense manhunt for them by Indonesian police "because they believed that their continuous association with that group ... would just make it easier for the Indonesian authorities to track them down and arrest or kill them".
Dulmatin and Patek fled separately to the southern Philippines and established a base operation on Mindanao Island with the help of a commander of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, a Philippine separatist group which has been waging a rebellion in the region for decades.
Patek sought Sunata's help in sending Indonesian recruits for training in Mindanao. Patek preferred Indonesians who had participated in the deadly religious clashes between Muslims and Christians in the eastern Indonesian provinces of Maluku and central Sulawesi, the report said. Sunata alleged that both Patek and Dulmatin had a hand in the 1999-2001 bloody conflict.
According to Sunata, he sent 13 Indonesian recruits in five batches for training and membership in the group in Mindanao in 2003 and 2005.
Patek's operations was financed by a US$11,500-"donation" from a Saudi Arabian.
Sunata said he and Patek regularly communicated by email and mobile-phone text messages, discussing "how they could continue the jihad (holy war) inIndonesia and the Philippines".
According to the confidential report, two weeks before Sunata's arrest in June, he received an email from Patek informing him of a planned attack on "military installations located along beach fronts". The report did not give details of the plot.
The report added that sporadic but intense military and police crackdowns led to the arrests of several members of Patek's group and forced the militants to move to other Mindanao areas.
Philippine authorities believe Dulmatin and Patek are still on the run in the country's south with Al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf rebels.
* Indonesian militants building base for attacks in Philippines (The Manila Times, Dec 2)