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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        5  May 2011

Indo says local terrorist went to meet bin Laden

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Officials in Jakarta say a top Indonesian terror suspect arrested this year in the town where Osama bin Laden was killed this week was intending to meet the Al Qaeda chief, although a senior American counterterrorism official said the two never met and Umar Patek's arrest in Abbottabad "appears to have been pure coincidence."

Indonesian and Pakistani intelligence officers said the arrest of Umar Patek on January 25 in Abbottabad by Pakistani officers did not lead to the American raid on bin Laden on Monday, but his arrest there may raise questions over how isolated bin Laden was in his final months.

Patek is wanted for his role in the 2002 Bali bombings and trained with Al Qaeda in Pakistan before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States. He is a key Southeast Asian militant and was one of the last on the run believed to have contacts with Al Qaeda's central command.

"The information we have is that Umar Patek ... was in Pakistan with his Filipino wife trying to meet Osama Bin Laden," Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro told reporters Wednesday.

Chairul Akbar, an official at Indonesia's Anti-Terrorism Agency, earlier told the Associated Press that Patek and his wife traveled to Pakistan using false names - Anis Alawi Jaafar and Fatima Zahra - on August 30, 2010, aiming to meet Osama Bin Laden to get his "support and protection."

"He was instructed to go to Abbottabad to meet other militants," Akbar said.

Akbar said it was possible that Patek met Al Qaeda leaders in January somewhere in Pakistan but that he did not meet with bin Laden himself.

"We have no indications whatsoever that Patek met with Bin Laden in Abbottabad," the American official told The Associated Press. The official spoke anonymously to discuss sensitive intelligence matters.

Many intelligence officials had assumed bin Laden was living in the remote Afghan border region, possibly in a cave, meeting only with a small trusted circle. While its possible that Patek may have been misguided if he thought he could meet bin Laden, the fact he ended up in the same town as him with that intention is striking, and could suggest someone told him bin Laden was there and was prepared to see him.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

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It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

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