Updated at 11:59 a.m. ET on 2019-10-10
Indonesia's security minister was in intensive care late Thursday after a man suspected of being an Islamic State supporter stabbed him in a brazen attack witnessed by villagers and children, police said.
Wiranto was stepping out of a car when a man lunged at him with a knife during a visit to the town of Pandeglang in Banten province west of Jakarta, national police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo said.
Wiranto, a former armed forces chief who goes by one name, was flown by helicopter to Jakarta's Gatot Soebroto Central Army Hospital, where he underwent a three-hour surgery, officials said. Police said he suffered “two deep wounds.”
“He's now in the ICU [intensive care unit] to be stabilized,” Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung told reporters. He said the three-hour surgery went well.
“I saw him myself after the surgery and he was well taken care of," Pramono said.
Two other people were also wounded, including a local police chief, Commissioner Dariyanto, and a Wiranto aide named Fuad, officials said.
The suspect was accompanied by a woman who stabbed the police chief. Both were subdued by security personnel and are now in custody, police said.
“It is believed that the two suspects have been exposed to the radical teachings of ISIS,” Dedi told reporters, using another name for the Islamic State (IS) militant group.
He said the suspects were believed to be members of Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), a local IS affiliate.
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, who visited Wiranto in the hospital, said he had ordered the national police and intelligence agency to “investigate and take strong action against the perpetrators and the network behind today’s event.”
“We call on all citizens to fight radicalism and terrorism,” Joko told reporters. “Only with joint efforts can we weed out radicalism from our beloved nation.”
Connected to JAD
Television footage showed the attacker stabbed Wiranto on his left side while he was shaking hands with residents. Several children who were nearby saw him stumble to the ground. Aides shoved him back into the car as bodyguards pinned down the suspect and tied his hands behind his back.
Local reports said police seized from the suspects two kunai knives, which are spear-shaped, with blades on both sides.
The director of Berkah Hospital in Pandeglang, Firmansyah, told CNN Indonesia that Wiranto received two stab wounds to the lower left abdomen.
Dedi said Wiranto’s expected arrival in Pandeglang was widely known to the public. He identified the suspects as 31-year-old Syahrial Alamsyah (alias Abu Rara) and the woman as Fitri Andriana, believed to be his wife.
Wiranto, 72, is the Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs minister. He served as chief of the Indonesian National Armed Forces from February 1988 to October 1999 during the nation's transition from authoritarian rule to democracy. He ran unsuccessfully for president in 2004 and for the vice presidency five years later.
In January 2000, Indonesian human-rights investigators recommended that Wiranto and five other military officials be investigated for rights abuses that took place when the Indonesian military carried out deadly assaults in which thousands were killed after East Timor sought independence from Indonesia in 1999.
Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, has been hit by a string of terrorist attacks in the past two decades.
In January 2016, authorities blamed JAD for a gun and bomb attack that killed eight people, including the four attackers, in Jakarta’s central business district.
It also was blamed for coordinated attacks in the Indonesian city of Surabaya in May 2018, when two families carried out suicide bombings on three churches and a police station. Those attacks killed 24 people, including children as young as 9 who joined their parents in the attacks.
An Indonesian court in July 2018 outlawed JAD in a verdict that was seen as making it easier for law enforcement officials to arrest suspected members.
Authorities should be vigilant for potential copycat attacks by lone wolves, said Stanislaus Riyanta, a terrorism analyst at the University of Indonesia.
“In the next few days, there will be important events in Indonesia that could attract radical people or groups to take action in the name of their ideology,” Stanislaus said, referring to the swearing-in of Jokowi as president for a second term on Oct. 20, and anticipated student protests during the event.
Tia Asmara and Ahmad Syamsudin contributed to this report.