The suspect who mounted the first ever militant attack on an Indonesian cabinet member was flagged in a police report weeks earlier and monitored for three months by security authorities, officials said Thursday.
Wiranto, the country’s coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, was stepping out of a car when Syahrial Alamsyah lunged at him with a knife in Pandeglang, a town in Banten province west of Jakarta, national police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo told reporters.
Syahrial is believed to belong a cell of the Islamic State-linked Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) in Bekasi near Jakarta, National Intelligence Agency (BIN) chief Budi Gunawan said.
“We have monitored the perpetrator since three months ago,” Budi told reporters, adding that the suspect had moved from one place to another for months.
The attack, witnessed by villagers and children, also involved a woman named Fitri Andriana, believed to be Syahrial’s wife, police said.
Wiranto suffered “two deep wounds” to his stomach and was flown by helicopter to Jakarta’s Gatot Soebroto Central Army Hospital, where he underwent a three-hour surgery, officials said.
The minister was attacked as he was shaking hands with residents. He was in Pandeglang to open a new building of the local university.
Wiranto, a former armed forces chief who goes by one name, was in intensive care late Thursday. Two others were wounded in the attack, including a local police chief, Commissioner Dariyanto, and one of the minister’s aides.
Police said the woman stabbed Dariyanto, but it was not immediately clear who attacked the aide. Local reports said police seized from the suspects two kunai knives, which are spear-shaped, with blades on both sides.
Wiranto, 72, is the first cabinet minister to have been attacked by a suspected militant.
Neighbors in Syahrial’s hometown in Medan, the capital of North Sumatra province, described him as a quiet but good man.
“He married twice but got divorced. He left the town around 2016 or 2017,” Rizaldi told CNN.
Another neighbor, Ismawati, said she was surprised to learn that Syahrial was involved in the attack. She described him as “a nice man who was always ready to lend a helping hand.”
“He socialized well. He doesn’t have a home here anymore because it was demolished to make way for a toll road project,” she told CNN.
Dedi, the police spokesman, said authorities were still trying to determine whether the woman who took part in the attack was Syahrial’s wife.
“Looking at her ID card, the woman is not married, while the man is a divorcee,” he told reporters.
“They just lived together in a rented house,” he said, adding that they had rented the home in Pandeglang, a regency of Banten province, since February this year.
Syahrial and Fitri were mentioned in a police report about the arrest of nine JAD suspects, including a local leader known as Abu Zee (alias Abu Ghurobah) last month in Bekasi, a town on the outskirts of Jakarta.
At that time police said they were married by Abu Zee.
Police searched Fitri’s family house in Brebes regency in Central Java province on Thursday, Kompas.com news website reported.
Neighbors described her as a quiet girl who did not like to socialize.
“Her parents said she worked as a domestic assistant. She rarely visits and when she did she rarely went out,” neighbor Masiroh was quoted by Kompas as saying.
Village chief Untung Andi Purwanto said Fitri appeared to have grown more religious after spending some time out of her hometown.
She also took up archery as a hobby.
“At home, she kept bows and arrows. There were about six of them,” Untung was quoted as saying. “We had no suspicion. We did not want to cast aspersions.”
Meanwhile, personnel of the elite anti-terror group Densus 88 arrested a female police officer in Yogyakarta late last month, accusing her of links to the same JAD cell as Wiranto’s attacker.
Nesti Ode Sami, a police officer in North Maluku, had deserted her post there in early September, and her name had been placed on a wanted-persons list, CNN-Indonesia reported, citing a provincial police official.
She was the first known female police officer to get involved in violent extremism, officials said.
“The result of our investigation show that she was deeply radicalized, based on her social media. It shows that this person was actively affiliated with the JAD network,” national police spokesman Asep Adi Saputra told reporters Wednesday in Jakarta.
She had been in touch with Abu Zee in Bekasi, he said.
“This has to do with one of the terrorist networks that we apprehended two weeks ago,” he added, referring to the arrests of nine suspected militants in various locations in western Java that was announced by police on Sept. 23.
Rina Chadijah in Jakarta contributed to this report.