German detectives investigating the Saturday stabbing of an independent mayoral candidate in the city of Cologne have confirmed that the attacker was motivated by anger at politician Henriette Reker’s pro-refugee policies.
“At the current moment witness statements indicate … the attacker’s xenophobic motives were pivotal,” Senior Public Prosecutor Ulf Willuhn said in Cologne.
Reker, 58, was stabbed and seriously injured on the campaign trail at a weekly market in Cologne, one day before the west German city was due to elect its new mayor.
A man armed with a knife attacked her shortly after 9 am (0700 GMT) at a campaign stall run by the centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), a police spokesman said.
Media reports previously cited police sources as saying that the 44-year-old attacker was provoked by the welcoming stance towards refugees taken by Chancellor Angela Merkel and Reker, who is responsible for organizing refugee accommodation in the west German city.
Willuhn said investigators were not ruling out mental problems and that the attacker was being psychiatrically assessed.
The attacker said he had been unemployed for years, was previously a painter and varnisher and was in receipt of social welfare payments, senior police officer Norbert Wagner said.
Neighbours described the man as unremarkable.
Reker underwent surgery for what were described as serious neck wounds. “She is currently stable, but not out of the woods yet,” Cologne police commissioner Wolfgang Albers said.
Four other people were wounded in the attack. Emergency services deployed a helicopter after the attack.
The attacker was arrested at the scene, where police and the public prosecutor launched an investigation.
The weekly market is held in the city district of Braunsfeld. Reker’s colleague Frederik Schorn told dpa that at least one of her campaign team had also been injured in the attack.
politicians and religious leaders condemned the attack, with the German chancellor telephoning the local CDU party to pass on her wishes for a speedy recovery.
The city’s electoral commission said the election would go ahead as planned, and politicians urged voters to exercise their right and go to the polls despite what they termed an attack on democracy.
Reker is being supported by the CDU, the Greens and the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP).