A leading candidate running for mayor of the German city of Cologne was stabbed in the neck and seriously injured on Saturday by a man claiming he committed the crime out of xenophobic motivation, police reported.
58-year-old Henriette Reker and her aide were attacked and seriously wounded at around 9.00 a.m. (0700 GMT), and three other people suffered minor injuries. The incident occured in the western German city, while Reker was ready at her campaign stand set up by Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU).
Reker is an independent candidate supported by the CDU, the Free Democrats and the Greens.
A police official said her condition was "stable, but not out of the woods".
The 44-year-old attacker, a German national and Cologne resident, told police after being arrested that "he wanted to and did commit this act because of anti-foreigner motives," senior police investigator Norbert Wagner said. He added the suspect had no police record and appeared to have acted alone according to initial findings.
The next step of the investigation is to carry out a psychiatric examination in order to find out if the man has a health problem or if it was his primary motive.
When asked if the suspect had specifically mentioned Reker's or Merkel's stance on refugees, Wagner said he only made general statements.
Currently, Reker directs Cologne's social affairs and integration department and is responsible for supporting and housing refugees in the city.
Most asylum seekers risking their lives for a better life aim to reach Germany, as it has taken in more refugees than any other EU country.
The country expects 800,000 new arrivals this year, but German media says an official report suggests the number could reach up to 1.5 million.
Merkel has been criticised by some in Germany due to the large number of refugees allowed into the country. Although most Germans have been welcoming, during the year refugee shelters have been attacked repeatedly.
Germany’s Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said the stabbing was "an attack on our democracy" and said he had long been "concerned by the hate-filled language and violent actions that accompany the refugee debate in Germany."
Following the attack a crowd joined by regional politicians from various political parties came together outside Cologne’s city hall for a candlelit vigil to show solidarity.
City officials said Cologne’s mayoral election will go ahead as planned on Sunday.