Jakarta. The shocking attack on Chief Security Minister Wiranto earlier this week is likely only a forerunner of more serious acts of terror ahead of the Oct. 20 presidential inauguration, a former militant has warned.
Wiranto was stabbed in the abdomen during a visit to Pandeglang, Banten, on Thursday by a man who had been waiting for his arrival. The suspect and his wife, who was also present during the attack, are members of Islamic State-affiliated terror group Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), according to police.
"I see the attack on Mr. Wiranto from a different perspective; that it was just a warmup," Ken Setiawan, a former key member of the outlawed Indonesia Islamic State (NII), said on Friday.
"The ultimate target is to make Indonesia like Syria. Radical groups are preparing attacks ahead of the inauguration of re-elected President Joko Widodo. This is the moment seen as a golden opportunity, because many other groups opposing the government would be willing to take to the streets and foil the inauguration," he said.
The authorities are bracing themselves for an expected surge in anti-government demonstrations in the capital by various groups before and during the presidential inauguration, which would provide a perfect battleground for militants to launch attacks that could make headlines across the globe.
"This is dangerous. If a bomb went off in the middle of a crowd, Indonesia would declare an emergency. This is exactly what the radicals want. Such chaotic situation would open the door to the revolution to make Indonesia like Syria," Ken explained.
The government should get tough on radicals, because there are many active terror cells ready to launch attacks, he said, adding that a zero-tolerance approach is best when it comes to dealing with radicalism and terrorism.
"They can launch attacks wherever they are, as they no longer need a command to do so," said Ken, who was known as the NII's best recruiter during the 2000s.
The 40-year-old spent several years in the group that sought to establish an Islamic state in Indonesia, before realizing that he was on the wrong path.
The group radicalized young Indonesians into joining the movement, telling them that anyone opposing it was an infidel, or nonbeliever. The now-defunct NII also encouraged its members to do whatever it took to get cash, including stealing from their parents and other family members, to fund the group's activities.
That was one of the reasons Ken finally turned his back on the NII. He then founded the NII Crisis Center to help others wanting to leave the organization or similar militant groups but who were too afraid to do so due to death threats from their colleagues.
Jimly Asshiddiqie, a former Constitutional Court chief justice, has meanwhile warned that the attack on Wiranto raised serious concerns over the safety of the president, popularly known as Jokowi.
He pointed to Jokowi's habit of impromptu visits, or blusukan, to meet with members of the public in person. Even during official visits, the president often causes headaches for members of his security detail by entering crowds to shake hands or pose for pictures with them.
"I'm worried about the president; he should stop doing this. In the current situation, we must take extra caution," Jimly told reporters after visiting Wiranto at Gatot Soebroto Army Hospital in Central Jakarta on Friday.
Democratic Party executive Mulyadi meanwhile said the daylight attack on a top security official in the presence of a sizable police contingent was hard to accept.
"The security personnel should have taken a more cautious approach, because the National Police chief previously said Wiranto was among the assassination targets," he said, referring to an announcement earlier this year that radicals had compiled a list of prominent security officials and ministers targeted for assassination.
Rising political tensions ahead of the presidential inauguration was a vulnerable period for national security, as it may provide militants with the perfect opportunity to act, he added.
"It is possible that terrorists, or those who have been exposed to radicalism, will stir chaos before the Oct. 20 inauguration of the president and vice president," said Mulyadi, who also serves on the legal commission of the House of Representatives.
Budi Gunawan, head of the State Intelligence Agency (BIN), said the suspect, identified as 31-year-old Syahril Alamsyah, alias Abu Rara, had been under police surveillance for some time and that the authorities had prior knowledge of his involvement in JAD.
But the National Police indicated they had no luxury of hindsight to arrest Syahril prior to the attack.
"There was just not enough preliminary evidence to arrest him [previously]," National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Dedi Prasetyo said on Friday.
The spokesman said Syahril claimed during police questioning that his decision to attack Wiranto had been spontaneous.
"He saw a helicopter arriving and many people going to the square. He told his wife that he also wanted to go to the square," Dedi said, adding that Syahril's house was only 300 meters from where Wiranto's helicopter landed.
Syahril said it was only then that he decided to attack the minister and any policemen who might try to stop him, the spokesman added.
The suspect's wife, Fitri Andriana, 21, was also arrested on the scene.