JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — A knife-wielding man suspected of belonging to a radical Islamic group wounded Indonesia’s security minister, a local police chief and another person in an attack in western Indonesia on Thursday, officials said.
President Joko Widodo called the suspect a terrorist and urged people to help combat radicalism following the stabbing of security minister Wiranto in Banten province, where authorities say Muslim militants have a presence.
The attack came just over a week before Widodo’s inauguration for his second five-year term in office.
“He is now being treated and undergoing surgery,” Widodo said after visiting Wiranto, a former armed forces chief. Police said he was in stable condition and conscious after the attack.
National police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo said Wiranto was stabbed in the abdomen. Local news reports cited a hospital doctor as saying he was stabbed at least twice.
Wiranto, 72, who uses one name, was airlifted to the capital, Jakarta. Videos showed him being carried on a stretcher, the left side of his abdomen covered with bandages and an oxygen mask strapped to his face.
Wiranto had just stepped out of his car and was being welcomed by the police chief in Pandeglang town when the attacker dashed toward them, wounding both along with a third man. Bodyguards wrestled the attacker to the ground and tied his hands behind his back while others helped Wiranto, who stumbled to the ground.
The motive for the attack was not immediately clear. As coordinating minister for politics, legal, and security affairs, Wiranto supervises several ministries and agencies, including the national police and defense, which have been in charge of the government’s counterinsurgency campaign.
Police identified the suspect as Syahril Alamsyah and said they also arrested his wife, Fitri Andriana.
Prasetyo told reporters they may have been radicalized by the Islamic State group’s ideology.
Investigators were trying to determine whether the attackers belonged to Jemaah Ansharuf Daulah, a Muslim militant network in Indonesia aligned with the Islamic State group which security officials believe has followers in Banten. The group has been blamed for past bomb attacks in Indonesia.
Sidney Jones, director of the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, which closely monitors Muslim militant groups, said the attack shows that supporters of the Islamic State group in Indonesia have not been deterred by its loss of territory in the Middle East.
“While very serious, this attempt should not be over dramatized. No one was killed, the perpetrators were caught alive and can be questioned and Indonesia remains completely stable,” she said.
As chief of the armed forces from 1998 to 1999, when the national police force was still under military control, Wiranto oversaw security and defense at a time when student protests erupted nationwide and eventually led to the fall of strongman President Suharto.
In 2003, Wiranto, then already retired from the military, and seven other former military officials were indicted by a U.N. panel for alleged crimes against humanity for atrocities in East Timor after the region voted for independence from Indonesia in a 1999 referendum. He denied the allegations.
Wiranto ran unsuccessfully for president in 2004 and for vice president in 2009. He led a political party in 2014 which threw its support behind Widodo’s successful presidential campaign, bringing the retired general back to an influential role in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation with a history of deadly militant attacks.
News assistant Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata contributed to this report.