The mayor of the Polish city of Gdansk has been left fighting for his life after being stabbed by a knife-wielding attacker in front of hundreds of people at a charity event.
Video footage showed the assailant bursting onto the podium and launching himself at Pawel Adamowicz, who had been waving sparklers on stage along with others at the fundraiser on Sunday evening.
After knifing the 53-year-old major several times, the man turned to the crowd with his arms raised triumphantly but was quickly apprehended by security guards and arrested.
Paramedics resuscitated Adamowicz at the scene before rushing him to hospital.
The director of the hospital in Gdansk where the mayor was taken, Jakub Kraszewski, told reporters just before midnight local time (23:00 GMT) that surgery was underway.
“He is in a critical condition… we are battling to save him,” he said.
“There is hope but his condition remains serious,” Andrzej Duda, president of Poland, wrote on Twitter, adding that Adamowicz was alive but “gravely wounded”.
A Gdansk police spokesperson said the detained man was a 27-year-old who lived in the port city.
In a video recording of the attack posted on YouTube, the suspect was seen seizing the microphone and claiming he had been wrongly jailed by the previous centrist government of the Civic Platform and tortured.
“That’s why Adamowicz dies,” he said before being knocked down to the ground by security.
One eyewitness told broadcaster TVN that the man appeared “happy with what he had done”.
|Adamowicz before being attacked at the charity event [Agencja Gazeta/Bartosz Banka via Reuters]|
Adamowicz has been mayor of Gdansk, whose population numbers around half a million, for two decades and the Civic Platform had supported his re-election in 2018 municipal elections.
Sunday’s “Lights to Heaven” fundraiser, which was organised by the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity, the country’s most important charity, was part of a national drive to raise funds for the purchase of medical equipment and featured a colourful stage set-up including lights, smoke and pyrotechnics.
According to Polish media, the suspect had been sentenced to more than five years in prison for four armed attacks on banks in Gdansk.
His mental state had severely deteriorated during his time in jail, reports said.
Police were investigating how the attacker had been able to breach security to reach the podium, Gdansk police spokesperson Joanna Kowalik-Kosinska told reporters.
“We know that he used an identifier with the inscription ‘Press’,” she said.
“Now we have to establish how was it obtained, was the accreditation in his name and was he really entitled to be there at that time?”
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki condemned the attack on Twitter and Interior Minister Joachim Brudzinski called it “an incomprehensible act of barbarism”.