(CNN)A German mayoral candidate has been stabbed in the neck in an open air market, police said. The arrested suspect told police he was acting out of ethnic intolerance.
He vented to officers his disapproval of the candidate’s liberal policies on refugees and criticized those of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, according to German media reports.
But the election for senior mayor of the city of Cologne, in the country’s west, will go forward as planned on Sunday, a day after the stabbing. And victim Henriette Reker, who is expected to make a full recovery, was still up for election as an independent candidate.
Four other people sustained injuries in the attack, and a 44-year-old male suspect was arrested at the market, police told journalists on Saturday.
Police say they believe he acted alone. He was carrying two knives, one of them a combat knife.
— nachrichten heute (@nachrichtenheut) October 17, 2015
Germany has recently opened its borders to a flood of migrants pouring into Europe from Syria, Iraq and other crisis regions.
In poll after poll, large majorities of Germans have voiced approval of their government’s decision to take them in, and many Germans have turned out to train stations to welcome new arrivals with open arms and applause.
But right-wing radicals — and residents tagging along with them — have hurled stones and bottles at buses carrying migrants while screaming hate slogans at them. Dozens of new housing complexes for asylum seekers have gone up in flames lit by arsonists.
German news magazine Der Spiegel reported on its online news service that the suspect in Reker’s stabbing has had years of contact with neo-Nazi groups and with at least one far right party that has been outlawed.
Reker has stuck up for refugees as other politicians have advocated turning them out of temporary shelters, according to media reports. And she has praised new arrivals as adding value to German society.
“When I speak of refugees, I don’t speak of desperate measures and burdens but instead of potential and opportunity,” she recently said in a statement.
Reker campaign outraged
Reker’s campaign team has given updates on her condition on her official Facebook page, saying she is improving, and has expressed its outrage.
“We are sad and appalled over the targeted attack on Henriette Reker, our colleagues and other campaign workers,” the team said. “We are shocked by the misdeed’s presumed xenophobic motive.”
The city of Cologne has a reputation in Germany for a prevalent attitude of diversity and acceptance, and Reker’s campaign platform openly appealed to this.
Her web page on her integration policy is titled, “Cologne is many-colored.” On it, she vows to promote equal opportunity and equal appreciation for of the city’s citizens regardless of ethnic, religious or gender background.
Though Reker is running as an independent, which is rare in German politics, she is enjoys broad support from Germany’s conservative, centrist and leftist ecological parties.
CNN’s Dakota Flournoy contributed to this report.