A mayoral candidate in Cologne, Germany, was recovering Saturday after police said she was stabbed in the neck by a man for supporting the recent influx of refugees into the country. Henriette Reker, an independent with ties to Chancellor Angela Merkel, was in stable condition as authorities investigated the incident, which occurred on the eve of the election, the Associated Press reported.
Reker, 58, runs Cologne’s social affairs and integration department and is in charge of making room for thousands of migrants fleeing violence in the Middle East. German officials have predicted they’ll see up to 1.5 million people seeking asylum in the country this year after Merkel opened its borders to refugees -- a decision that sank her approval ratings to four-year lows, according to previous International Business Times reporting.
Reker was handing out roses at a weekly market Saturday in Cologne when a 44-year-old resident attacked her with two hunting knives. At least four other people were injured, as well.
Following his arrest, the suspect told police “he wanted to and did commit this act because of anti-foreigner motives," investigator Norbert Wagner said, according to the AP. The man had reportedly been unemployed and planned the assault by himself.
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Interior minister Thomas de Maiziere said in a statement that he was “deeply shocked by this heinous and cowardly act,” Bild reported. He added that the stabbing was “further evidence of the increasing radicalization of the refugee debate.” Merkel herself also condemned the incident.
Reker’s campaign thanked the emergency responders who treated her, and said they hoped the election would proceed as planned “even in the face of this terrible event.” In the meantime, police were set to evaluate the suspect’s psychiatric health in an effort to see whether his alleged xenophobia was the main reason for the stabbing, BBC News reported.