German Mayoral Candidate, Henriette Reker, Wounded in Knife Attack Motivated by Anti-Foreigner Sentiment

Henriette Reker
Henriette Reker

A leading candidate to be mayor of the German city of Cologne was wounded in a knife attack as she campaigned Saturday by a man who claimed that he was motivated by anti-foreigner sentiment, authorities said.

Henriette Reker was stabbed in the neck at a campaign stand set up by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats at a market before an election Sunday. She suffered serious injuries but her condition was stable, police chief Wolfgang Albers said.

Reker is an independent candidate to lead Germany’s fourth-biggest city, but is backed by Merkel’s conservatives and two other parties. The 58-year-old currently heads Cologne’s social affairs and integration department, and is responsible for refugee housing.

Another woman was seriously wounded and three people had minor injuries from the attack, senior police investigator Norbert Wagner told reporters.

The suspected assailant, a 44-year-old German national and Cologne resident who said he had been unemployed for several years, told officials that he targeted Reker and that “he wanted to and did commit this act because of anti-foreigner motives,” Wagner said. He added that the man appeared to have acted alone and had no police record.

Prosecutor Ulf Willuhn said officials will now investigate whether that was in fact the man’s primary motive or whether his health played a role. They plan to carry out a psychiatric examination.

Asked whether the suspect had specifically mentioned Reker’s or Merkel’s policies on refugees, Wagner said: “No. He made general statements in that direction — he didn’t mention Ms. Merkel at all.”

City officials said the election would go ahead as planned.

Attacks on politicians are rare in Germany, but there have been prominent cases.

Then-Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble was shot by a deranged man while campaigning in October 1990, an attack that left him using a wheelchair. A few months earlier, a mentally disturbed woman stabbed Oskar Lafontaine, then a prominent member of Germany’s main opposition party, while he was campaigning in Cologne.