German Police: Xenophobe stabs mayoral candidate
One day prior to tomorrow's local elections an assailant has stabbed Henriette Reker, a candidate for Mayor of Cologne, at a marketplace. The online version of the daily Die Welt reports she has been seriously injured but that her life is not in danger.
Four other people were injured during the attack, one of them severely. Police say the apparently male assailant was immediately arrested and by all indications wanted to express his opposition to foreigners and his disagreement with German refugee policy.
The City Hall of Cologne, which is Germany's fourth-largest city, announced that elections will take place as originally planned on Sunday despite the incident. The attack on the female candidate, who is not a member of any political party but was among the election favorites, took place at a market in the Braunsfeld quarter of the city, where the 58-year-old Reker was campaigning.
A member of her campaign staff was reportedly injured as well. Even though Reker is an independent candidate, she is supported by German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), by the Greens, and by the liberal FDP and was a front-runner.
Police confirmed that a 44-year-old knife-wielding man attacked Reker and four other people this morning as they were standing at a CDU information stand. Eyewitnesses told Die Welt that the long knife was shaped like a machete.
City Hall has announced that Reker, who is currently the head of their Social Affairs and Integration Department, was stabbed in the neck but that her life is not in danger. The Rheinische Post news server reports that the perpetrator stood calmly in place after committing the violence and said: "I had to do it. I am protecting you all."
According to that news server the man was apparently of German origin. Other German media are reporting that after he was arrested he said the motivation for his crime was to protest Merkel and Reker's helpful policy toward refugees.
Detectives confirmed the apparent anti-immigrant, political and xenophobic motivation for the crime at a press conference today. Cologne Chief of Police Wolfgang Albers said the investigation was heading in that direction.
An off-duty professional police officer overpowered the man during the attack. The man arrested is described as a German who, according to Norbert Wagner, the Chief of Detectives in Cologne, admitted that his motivation was hatred of foreigners.
According to the man's testimony he has apparently been unemployed for quite some time, living on welfare, and he previously worked as a decorator and painter. His neighbors described him as an unobtrusive person.
"He lived alone in his apartment," Wagner said. The attack has frightened German politicians.
Outgoing Mayor of Cologne Jürgen Roters said he is deeply shocked by the incident. He also announced that the injured politician would be undergoing surgery.
Jochen Ott, the Social Democratic (SPD) mayoral candidate and Reker's main rival, has suspended his campaign. The head of the SPD, Sigmar Gabriel, posted to Facebook that he was "shocked by the insidious violence of this crime".
"There is no room in Germany for violence in political debate," Gabriel posted. "We are thinking of Henriette Reker and the others injured during the knife attack," tweeted Steffen Seibert, spokesperson for the German Government.
Green Party head Cem Özdemir expressed his fear of "how much potential violence there is among some people in society". Chair of the FDP Christian Lindner made similar remarks, saying that this was an "inhuman, pointless crime that is ultimately aimed against anyone who advocates democracy".
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