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Tuesday 16 October 2018

I feared for my life, says German mayor stabbed by 'anti-refugee' assailant

Andreas Holstein suffered a neck injury when he was stabbed at a kebab restaurant (AP)
Andreas Holstein suffered a neck injury when he was stabbed at a kebab restaurant (AP)
The scene outside the Altena restaurant after the attack (Markus Kluemper/dpa via AP)
Andreas Hollstein with Chancellor Angela Merkel (Michael Kappeler/dpa via AP)

The mayor of a small German town says he is happy to be alive after being attacked with a knife by a man who confronted him over his welcoming stance towards refugees, before slashing his neck.

The knife attack on Andreas Hollstein, the 54-year-old mayor of Altena in western Germany, prompted widespread shock and condemnation from officials including Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Authorities said the incident on Monday night was probably politically motivated.

"I'm shocked by the knife attack on mayor Andreas Hollstein - and very relieved that he is back with his family," Mrs Merkel said. "Thanks also to those who helped him."

The attacker was identified only as a 56-year-old German man and was described as drunk by local media.

Mr Hollstein, a father of four and a member of Mrs Merkel's conservative party, appeared shaken as he answered reporters' questions the day after the attack.

"I feared for my life," he said adding that it appeared the man had intentionally chosen him as a victim.

"If you ask me whether that knife in his pocket was for me, I'd answer with a yes," he said.

The mayor said he was at a local kebab restaurant when the attacker approached him, held a knife to his throat and took him to task over his policies towards refugees.

It was only with the help of the restaurant's owner and his son that the man was overpowered, and police later made an arrest

Mr Hollstein was taken to hospital but discharged later on Monday. He said he had a 6in cut on the left side of his neck.

The mayor became known nationally for voluntarily taking in more asylum seekers than Altena was obliged to since the height of the refugee crisis two years ago.

He said his attacker had probably been incited by the poisoned atmosphere fuelled by parties such as the nationalist Alternative for Germany, which has campaigned against migrants and their supporters.

But Mr Hollstein said the attack would not deter him from continuing to stand up for refugees and others who needed his support.

Armin Laschet, governor of North Rhine-Westphalia state where Altena is located, said: "The security agencies assume the attack has a political background."

The incident in Altena has been compared to a knife attack two years ago in which a far-right assailant stabbed a politician campaigning to become mayor of Cologne. The attacker was angered by the government's refugee policy.

Henriette Reker, who was in charge of housing refugees in Cologne at the time, was elected mayor the following day while still in an induced coma.

Germany took in more than a million asylum seekers between 2015 and 2016, mostly from war-torn countries such as Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

The influx saw an outpouring of support from many Germans who wanted to help the refugees, but also a sharp rise in the number of attacks against migrants.

AP

Press Association

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