Slovakia prime minister taken to hospital as President Zuzana Caputova condemns 'brutal and ruthless' attack.
Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico is in a life-threatening condition after being wounded in a shooting, according to his official Facebook page.

"He was shot multiple times and is currently in a life-threatening condition," read a message posted on Wednesday on Fico's social media account.

"At this moment, he is being transported by helicopter to Banska Bystrica, because it would take too long to get to Bratislava due to the necessity of an acute intervention. The next few hours will decide," it added.

Earlier, reports on local media said that Fico was hit four times in the stomach outside the House of Culture in the town of Handlova in the afternoon. Police sealed off the scene and a suspect has been detained, according to the Dennik N news outlet and TA3, a Slovakian TV station.

Deputy speaker of parliament Lubos Blaha confirmed the incident during a session of Parliament and adjourned it until further notice, the Slovak TASR news agency said.

President Zuzana Caputova condemned "a brutal and ruthless" attack on the prime minister.

"I'm shocked," Caputova said. "I wish Robert Fico a lot of strength in this critical moment and a quick recovery from this attack."

Western leaders, from Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz to British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak expressed shock at the shooting.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen condemned the assault too.

"Such acts of violence have no place in our society and undermine democracy, our most precious common good. My thoughts are with PM Fico, his family", she said on X.

Fico, a third-time premier, and his leftist Smer, or Direction, party, won Slovakia's September 30 parliamentary elections, staging a political comeback after campaigning on a pro-Russian and anti-American message.

Comment: The "anti-American" part may provide a clue as to the gunman's 'inspiration' and/or handlers.

Critics worried Slovakia under Fico would abandon the country's pro-Western course and follow the direction of Hungary under populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Thousands have repeatedly rallied in the capital and across Slovakia to protest Fico's policies.

Wednesday's shooting comes three weeks ahead of crucial European Parliament elections, in which populist and hard-right parties in the 27-nation bloc appear poised to make gains.

Comment: The mainstream media's definition of 'hard-right' now includes a whole host of formerly reasonable opinions, like not indoctrinating children with radical gender ideology, and not supporting genocide.

"That is definitely not something that anybody in Slovakia expected," said Alena Kudzko, vice president of Globsec, a security policy think tank.

Kudzko noted how the country has been polarised over the past year amid heightened political tension, especially in the run-up to the elections.

"But nobody ... called for violence in the country," she told Al Jazeera. "Quite the opposite, everybody right now is trying to unite and send a coherent message, that political violence is not something that we support," she added.