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Polish mayor dies after being stabbed on stage at charity event

Simon KRAWCZYK, AFP | Gdansk Mayor Pawel Adamowicz on April 21, 2018

Poland's health minister said Monday that Gdansk Mayor Pawel Adamowicz has died after being stabbed in front of hundreds of people at a charity event on Sunday.

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Video footage showed the attacker bursting onto the podium and launching himself at Adamowicz, 53, who had been waving sparklers with others on stage at the Sunday evening fundraiser.

After knifing the mayor several times, the man turned to the crowd with his arms raised triumphantly but was quickly tackled to the ground by security guards and arrested.

Paramedics resuscitated Adamowicz at the scene before rushing him to hospital where doctors said early Monday he had survived an operation but was in a "very, very critical condition". The mayor had suffered a serious wound to the heart and cuts to the diaphragm and abdominal organs.

A local police spokesman said the detained man was a 27-year-old who lived in Gdansk, a Baltic coast city with a population of around half a million.

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 (PO) and tortured.

"That's why Adamowicz dies," he said.

One eyewitness told broadcaster TVN that the man appeared "happy with what he had done".

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Adamowicz had been mayor of Gdansk for two decades and the Civic Platform had supported his re-election in 2018 municipal polls.

Sunday's event was part of a big nationwide drive to raise funds for the purchase of medical equipment and featured a colourful stage set-up including lights, smoke and pyrotechnics.

According to local 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, local police spokeswoman 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".

Overseas officials including EU President Donald Tusk, European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans and mayor of London Sadiq Khan also expressed their support for Adamowicz.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)

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