Attempted Assassination of Slovak Leader Puts Europe on Edge

A gunman shot Prime Minister Robert Fico of Slovakia, who is known for defying his fellow leaders in the European Union, multiple times at close range on Wednesday, in the most serious attack on a European leader in decades.

Mr. Fico was shot after emerging from the House of Culture in Handlova, a town in central Slovakia, as he greeted a small crowd in Banikov Square. He was rushed to a nearby hospital, then airlifted to another hospital for emergency surgery.

Hours later, the deputy prime minister, Tomas Taraba, told the BBC that Mr. Fico’s situation was no longer life-threatening, and he expected the prime minister to survive.

The gunman, identified by Slovak news outlets as a 71-year-old poet, was immediately wrestled to the ground by security officers.

The interior minister, Matus Sutaj Estok, said at a news conference that Mr. Fico was shot five times and that the initial evidence “clearly points to a political motivation.” Asked to name the attacker, he said, “Not today.”

The attempted assassination stoked fears that Europe’s increasingly polarized and venomous political debates had tipped into violence.

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