MANILA, Philippines - Military officials hailed Wednesday the arrest in Pakistan of a senior leader of the Southeast Asian regional terrorist leader Omar Patek, who stayed in Western Mindanao for several years after playing a role in the deadly Bali bombings in 2002.
“It’s a big blow to the Jemaah Islamiyah and course to the ASG (Abu Sayyaf Group) because they have tactical alliance,” said AFP deputy chief of staff for intelligence Maj. Gen. Francisco Cruz.
Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos, AFP public affairs office chief, said Patek was arrested by law enforcement agencies in Pakistan last January 25. He said Patek, whose true name is Anis Alawi Jaffar was arrested with a Pakistani association believed to be harboring him.
“It (information) was relayed to us by the Pakistani government,” he said.
Patek and his JI associate, Dulmatin, fled to Mindanao after the 2002 Bali bombings. The United States has offered a $1 million reward for information that would lead to his arrest.
Burgos said the 40-year-old Patek “imparted his skills with the Abu Sayyaf Group members in using improvised explosive device while hiding here in the Philippines after the 2002 bombings in Bali, Indonesia.”
A military anti-terrorist expert, AFP Western Command chief Lt. Gen. Juancho Sabban, said Patek was the finance officer and the link to JI and Al-Qaeda leadership. Sabban headed the military’s Task Force Comet that pursued Patek and Dulmatin in Sulu a few years ago.
“After the death of Parad, he (Patek) was rarely monitored,” said Sabban, referring to Abu Sayyaf leader Albader Parad who was killed by Marine soldiers in fierce fighting in Maimbung, Sulu.
“This (arrest of Patek) proves that Mindanao is not a safe haven for foreign terrorists as long declared by the AFP after the death of Abu Sayyaf chieftain Khadaffy Janjalani. It started the exodus of JI operatives to other countries. It also justifies the RP-US antiterror partnership in Sulu,” he said.
Commodore Jose Miguel Rodriguez, AFP deputy chief of staff for civil military operations, said Patek's arrest is a substantial victory in the region's battle against terrorism.