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Terrorist who made bombs for Indonesian church attacks jailed

Country/Region: Indonesia, South and East Asia

A former “most wanted” terrorist who made the explosives to blow up several Indonesian churches as part of a major anti-Christian attack in 2000 has been jailed for 20 years.

Umar Patek was sentenced last Thursday (21 June), having been found guilty of six charges including murder, bomb-making and terrorism offences in relation to two incidents.

Jakarta-Skyline_4X3.jpg
Several churches in the capital Jakarta were targeted by Islamists
yohanes budiyanto / CC BY 2.0

The first was coordinated attacks on several churches in Jakarta on Christmas Eve in 2000, part of a major assault on 25 churches in eleven cities by militants from Islamist group Jemaah Islamiyah; around 19 people, mostly Christians attending services, were killed.

Patek was also convicted of making explosives that were used in the Bali bombings that killed 202 people, mostly foreigners, in 2002; the 45-year-old was found guilty of mixing the 700kg bomb that blew up two nightclubs on the Indonesian island.

The court heard how he had first used his bomb-making skills in 2000 when Imam Samudra, mastermind of the Bali bombings, asked him to make explosives for the church attacks. Samudra later asked Patek to help kill foreigners in Bali by making the explosives for that atrocity.

Eddy Setiono, who is serving a life sentence for terror offences, told the court that he drove a car to several churches on Christmas Eve 2000 while Patek "set up" bombs, which were disguised as gifts, in the back seat. The bombs were delivered to churches and ministers.

Christians in Indonesia suffered a merciless Islamic onslaught between 1999 and 2002 that claimed more than 6,000 lives.

Patek was once the most-wanted terror suspect in Indonesia; he spent nearly a decade on the run before being discovered in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad several months before Osama bin Laden was killed in the same town. 

The Indonesian was the last key suspect to be tried in relation to the Bali bombings; the others have either been executed, killed in police raids or are now serving life sentences.

Prosecutors had asked the court to lock up Patek for life but he was given a more lenient sentence because he was said to have cooperated with the police, and also made a public apology to the victims’ families, Christians and the government.

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