Investigators in southern Germany warned yesterday of a rise in far-right criminal activity after a police chief known for leading a crackdown on neo-Nazi groups was stabbed in the chest by an unknown attacker outside his family home.
Alois Mannichl, head of the police force in the Bavarian city of Passau, had to undergo emergency surgery to repair a knife wound close to his heart after the attack on Saturday evening. His assailant, who lay in wait for his victim at his front door, said he brought greetings from the "national resistance", a term that is often used by right-wing extremist groups to describe their movement.
If a neo-Nazi link is confirmed, the murder attempt would mark a far more aggressive strategy from local groups, said the Bavarian interior minister, Joachim Herrmann.
"Attacking a working police chief, to punish or bully him for his actions against the far-right, is a totally new kind of violence," he said. "It is an escalation of violence."
Mr Mannichl (52) has made no secret of his desire to adopt a zero-tolerance approach to the activities of far-right groups in and around Passau since becoming chief of police in 2004. He has ordered the force to step up its observation of neo-Nazi rallies and earlier this year asked it to carry out a series of raids on groups' headquarters.
According to the Bavarian interior ministry, the number of crimes related to right-wing extremists in Passau has more than doubled in the past year, with 83 reported incidents so far in 2008 compared to 40 in 2007.
Mr Mannichl was an obvious target for the more aggressive elements as he was seen as such a "strong enemy", Mr Herrmann said yesterday.
Investigators said his attacker, described as bald and 6ft 2in, delivered a threatening message before plunging the knife into his chest, warning Mr Mannichl: "You'll not trample on the graves of our comrades any more."
In an interview with the Passauer Neue Presse , Mr Herrmann said the attack would reopen the debate over whether the far-right NPD party should be banned.
Only last month the organisation, which endorses an array of anti-Semitic, Islamophobic and racist policies but continues to receive public funding as a legitimate political party, launched a withering verbal attack on Mr Mannichl, accusing him of harassing its members at a commemorative rally to Germany's war dead.