An independent candidate running for mayor of the German city of Cologne was stabbed in the neck and severely wounded on Saturday in an attack that police said appeared to be motivated by her support for refugees.
Henriette Reker and an aide were seriously wounded by the alleged 44-year-old attacker, while another three people suffered less severe injuries, according to police.
"At the moment [Reker] is stable but not out of the woods yet," said Cologne police chief Wolfgang Albers.
Reker was campaigning at an information stand for the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party — the party headed by German chancelor Angela Merkel — at about 9:00am.
"She had arrived here just a few minutes before," said local CDU official Bernd Petelkau. "She was talking to two other party members when it happened."
Norbert Wagner, head of the police criminal investigation unit in Cologne, called the attack on Reker "targeted and deliberate," and eyewitnesses reported that the attacker went straight for Reker. A 44-year-old male attacker allegedly acted alone and had no prior record, and told police he attacked Reker "because of anti-foreigner motives."
"In his plea, he said that he committed this act out of xenophobic motivation," Wagner told a news conference.
Reker is running as an independent, but is supported by the CDU, the Free Democrat party, and Green party. Albers said that Reker has been involved in supporting and helping to house refugees in the city.
Germany's lower house of parliament approved legislation Thursday to curb the record influx of refugees and migrants, the highest since the end of World War II. The country could reportedly face up to 1.5 million people seeking asylum by the end of the year and has struggled to find sufficient housing for the thousands of people arriving on a daily basis.
Cologne's mayoral election is scheduled for Sunday.
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