Germany: Pro-immigration mayor assaulted for political reasons
On Monday evening the mayor of Altena in western Germany was attacked by a knife-wielding assailant, apparently for political reasons. Andreas Hollstein, a Christian Democratic politician known for his open approach to immigrants, suffered a 15-centimeter laceration on his neck, according to police.
Hollstein has already been released from the hospital. The assault is being investigated as attempted murder and was condemned by Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU).
The attacker allegedly suffers from psychological problems and according to police acted spontaneously. He is apparently not linked to any right-wing extremists.
The assailant had a blood alcohol level of 1.2 per mil and attacked the 54-year-old mayor of the town of 18 000 near a refreshment stand serving kebabs. First the assailant is said to have given Hollstein a strange look, then asked if he was actually the local mayor.
The attacker then held a knife to the mayor's neck. Hollstein suffered slight injuries but eventually overpowered the assailant with the aid of passers-by.
"I feared for my life," the mayor admitted today at a press conference, saying he was convinced that if the others had not been there he might no longer be alive. "The people by my side were alert and I am glad to still be alive," said the politician, who was taken to hospital by ambulance after the attack.
The refreshment stand operator also suffered slight injuires during the scuffle. According to Hollstein, the assailant asked that he be shot after police arrived.
"The security authorities are basing their investigation on the assumption that this attack has a political background," said the Prime Minister of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Armin Laschet (CDU). The 56-year-old assailant, according to eyewitnesses, made several remarks about refugee policy.
Detectives believe he most probably decided to commit his attack without preliminary planning. The town of Altena is famous for accepting more refugees than required according to the distribution formula.
Hollstein said today that he is not deterred by the assault and that he will remain mayor. The father of four says he has received threats in the past and that after the attack he once again received messages approving of it.
The assassination attempt has been condemned by many politicians. "I am horrified by the knife attack on Mayor Andreas Hollstein and relieved to learn he can be with his family once again," Merkel tweeted through her spokesperson.
"This is thanks to those who came to his aid," said the Chancellor, who honored Hollstein this year for his engagement on behalf of refugees. German Justice Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) also tweeted about the "horrible news" from Altena.
"We cannot ever accept that people will be assaulted just because they aid others. In our country, room for hatred and violence must not be allowed," he tweeted.
Monday's attack was not the only one of its kind in Germany, where 1.35 million asylum-seekers have arrived since 2015, and where arson attacks on shelters have been common. In October 2015 a man named Frank S. attempted to murder Henriette Reker because he disagreed with her immigration policy stance, but she went on to be elected the Mayor of Cologne.
Frank S. stabbed Reker in the neck with a hunting knife, just missing her carotid artery and spinal cord. A mass shooting of random pedestrians took place in Munich in 2016 with similar motivation, killing nine and injuring 27, with the shooter taking his own life.
Last year in Austria ultra-right extremists attacked a university rector in Klagenfurt during a lecture, while another of their number perpetrated a mass shooting at a music festival. In the UK, MP Jo Cox was murdered last year because of her support for refugee reception.
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