Salman Rushdie, an author who has lived under death threats from Iran for decades, was stabbed on stage during a literary event in the US on Friday morning.
Police said Rushdie suffered a stab wound to the neck and was airlifted to hospital. The Booker Prize-winning author was still undergoing surgery Friday afternoon, police said.
“The news is not good. Salman is likely to lose one eye; the nerves in his hand were severed; and his liver was punctured and damaged,” Rushdie’s agent Andrew Wylie said in a statement to Reuters on Friday night. Rushdie, 75, was still on a ventilator, he said.
Police have identified the suspect in the attack as Hadi Matar, 24, of Fairview, New Jersey. NYPD Major Eugene Staniszewski said there was no indication yet of a possible motive for the attack.
Rushdie was scheduled to speak at the Chautauqua Institute, about a 90-minute drive southwest of the western New York city of Buffalo, on Friday.
“Around 11am, the suspect ran onto the stage and attacked Rushdie and the interviewer,” New York State it is stated in the police statement.
The suspect, who police said had a pass to attend the event, was taken into custody by a state trooper assigned to Rushdie’s lecture. Police said the FBI is involved in the investigation.
The Chautauqua Institution said Rushdie was at the event to discuss the US “as an asylum for writers and other artists in exile and as a home for freedom of creative expression”. He was joined on stage by Henry Reese, co-founder of the Pittsburgh-based group of writers living in exile. Reese suffered a minor head injury, police said.
Rushdie’s book Satanic verses, first published in 1988, sparked controversy for its depiction of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. The book was banned in Iran, and in 1989 Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa ordering Muslims to kill Rushdie.
After receiving death threats, Rushdie went into hiding. He lived with armed guards and adopted the pseudonym Joseph Anton.
Twitter temporarily banned Iran’s current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in 2019 for tweeting that Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa against Rushdie was “firm and irrevocable”.
The site where Rushdie was attacked opened in 1874 as a teaching place for Methodist Sunday School teachers, before becoming a center for a wider educational movement.
It is known for its summer program that hosts famous authors, musicians and religious leaders, and for the gathering of different religious faiths. A Chautauqua representative could not be reached for comment Friday.
“It happened in a place I’m very familiar with,” said New York Governor Kathy Hochul. “This is an ideal place for him to be able to speak, and that’s what he was trying to do, just in the last hour before he was attacked.”