updated 12/15/2008 11:00:38 AM ET 2008-12-15T16:00:38

German police searched Monday for a man who stabbed a police chief known for taking a hard line against neo-Nazis, an attack that also prompted debate over whether the country's main far-right party should be banned.

The search was renewed after two suspects in the Saturday night stabbing of Passau police chief Alois Mannichl were released Monday due to lack of evidence.

"The dreadful attack in Passau once again has made clear the very important challenge of fighting against far-right extremism," Ulrich Wilhelm, Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, told reporters.

"An attempted murder, also the unbelievable directness with which it was carried out ... is a completely new dimension," Wilhelm said.

State prosecutor Helmut Walch said Mannichl was stabbed in the chest at his home by a skinhead who told him, "Greetings from the national resistance. You will no longer trample on the graves of our comrades, you leftist pig."

German neo-Nazis often refer to themselves as the "national resistance."

The 52-year-old Mannichl underwent emergency surgery and is now in stable condition. Police are treating the attack as attempted murder.

Over the weekend, police detained two suspects, but Mannichl was unable to identify them in photographs, Walch said. He added that DNA taken from the two also did not match samples found at the crime scene.

Calls to ban far-right party
The attack has reignited calls for the National Democratic Party, or NPD, to be banned. Authorities have struggled for years with how to best handle the ultra-nationalist party, which holds seats in two state legislatures.

Bavarian governor Horst Seehofer, backed by his top security official, said Monday they would seek to gather fresh arguments for a ban against the NPD. Politicians across the country backed their call.

But the head of the police union urged caution, noting that such a measure would do little to stop extremists.

"A ban on the NPD will not bring any of these criminals back onto the straight and narrow," said Rainer Wendt.

Under Mannichl, Passau police had increased their monitoring of both right-wing and left-wing rallies.

More on: Skinheads | Angela Merkel

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