Terror Suspect Nabbed in Osama Bin Laden's Town Months Before Raid

Indonesian official: mass murder suspect was in town to meet al Qaeda leader.

ByABC News
May 5, 2011, 10:23 AM

May 5, 2011 — -- Months before U.S. Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden in his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, authorities in the same town arrested a terror suspect who a top Indonesian official said had gone there to meet the al Qaeda leader, though a U.S. counterterrorism official said it was all just a coincidence.

On Jan. 25, Pakistani authorities in Abbottabad arrested Umar Patek, who is accused of taking part in the 2002 bombing in Bali, Indonesia, that killed 202 people, including seven Americans. Indonesian Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro said Wednesday, "The information we have is that Umar Patek ... was in Pakistan with his Filipino wife trying to meet Osama Bin Laden."

However, a U.S. counterterrorism official told ABC News the U.S. had no information to indicate Patek had ever met or planned to meet bin Laden and his arrest there appears to be a "coincidence."

In the same way U.S. intelligence managed to successfully track down Osama bin Laden by following one of his couriers, Patek, a senior member of the southeast Asian terror group Jemaah Islamiya, was nabbed after Pakistani authorities tracked a messenger to him, a Pakistani official told the Associated Press. Jemaah Islamiya (JI) has established ties to bin Laden's al Qaeda, according to a U.S. State Department terrorism report.

Patek's arrest was kept secret by the Pakistani government until the AP published a report on the apprehension in March.

Information concerning Patek's alleged plans to meet bin Laden has not been mentioned in the U.S. government's detailed account of the long-term CIA investigation that eventually led special forces to bin Laden's sprawling secured compound in Abbottabad Sunday.

The U.S. and southeast Asian authorities had been on the hunt for Patek for years before his arrest. In a 2008 State Department report, he is described as a "prominent terrorist" in the region.

READ: Indonesia Says Terror Suspect Went to Meet Bin Laden, AP Reports