Indonesian police ramp up suspect search after ISIS-linked attack on Wiranto

Indonesian security block off the scene after two Indonesians stabbed the country's chief security minister Wiranto in Pandeglang, Java on Oct 10, 2019. PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA (AFP) - Indonesian police were searching for more suspects Friday (Oct 11) after two militants from an Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) linked terror group stabbed the chief security minister, as the politician recovered in hospital following emergency surgery.

Mr Wiranto, a 72-year-old former army chief, was stabbed twice in the stomach as he left his vehicle in Pandeglang on Java island on Thursday.

The assassination attempt comes shortly before President Joko Widodo begins his second term as leader of the South-east Asian archipelago of 260 million people, the world's biggest Muslim-majority nation.

On Thursday, Mr Joko ordered the national police and intelligence agency chiefs to pursue other suspects in the attack and the extremist network allegedly behind it.

"An attack like this should set off alarm bells for security personnel to increase their caution," said Mr Ridwan Habib, a terrorism researcher at the University of Indonesia.

On Friday, Mr Wiranto, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, was in hospital following surgery and reportedly recovering.

"I visited him earlier today. He could talk but still looked weak," presidential chief of staff Moeldoko, who goes by one name, told AFP on Friday. "He remains in intensive care."

A 31-year-old man and a 21-year-old woman, reportedly a married couple, were arrested at the scene in Pandeglang.

They were later identified as members of Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), an extremist organisation loyal to ISIS that was responsible for several previous attacks, including deadly suicide bombings at churches in Indonesia's second-biggest city Surabaya last year.

The male suspect had reportedly been under surveillance by the intelligence agency in Indonesia, which has long struggled with extremist Islamist groups.

Some past attacks have been against police and other state symbols, but Thursday's incident is thought to be the first known assassination attempt by JAD on an Indonesian politician.

Authorities routinely arrest suspected ISIS-loyal militants they claim were planning bomb and other attacks.

Three others - a local police chief and two aides - also suffered knife wounds in Thursday's attack but authorities said they had non-life-threatening injuries.

Mr Wiranto, the retired chief of the armed forces and a failed presidential candidate, was appointed to his post in 2016 and oversees several departments, including the foreign affairs and defence ministries.

A major figure in Indonesian politics, he has faced controversy over alleged human rights violations and allegations of crimes against humanity linked to Indonesia's brutal occupation of East Timor.

In May, police said Mr Wiranto and three other top officials were targeted in a failed assassination plot linked to deadly riots in Jakarta after Mr Joko's re-election victory.

A group of six people - arrested before they could carry out the killings - hoped the killings would plunge the country into chaos, police said at the time.

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