Author Salman Rushdie stabbed in New York; might lose one eye, liver damaged

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Author Salman Rushdie is on a ventilator, will likely lose one eye and his liver was “stabbed and damaged” following an attack on him on Friday, his agent said, noting that the “news is not good”.

The New York Times (NYT) reported that according to Rushdie’s agent, Andrew Wylie, the Mumbai-born controversial author was on a ventilator and could not speak.

“The news is not good. Salman will likely lose one eye, the nerves in his arm were severed and his liver was stabbed and damaged,” Wylie said in a statement to NYT.

Rushdie, who faced Islamist death threats for years after writing “The Satanic Verses”, was stabbed by a 24-year-old New Jersey resident at an event in western New York State.

Hadi Matar (24) from Fairview, New Jersey has been identified as the suspect who stabbed Rushdie, Major Eugene Staniszewski of the New York State Police told a press conference on Friday evening.

Rushdie (75) was stabbed in the neck as he was on the stage at the Chautauqua Institution, a not-for-profit community on Chautauqua Lake in southwestern New York State, where approximately 7,500 people are in residence on any day during a nine-week season.

Staniszewski said Rushdie was provided medical treatment by a doctor who was in the audience until emergency medical personnel arrived on the scene. “The doctor immediately began first aid” on Rushdie. The author was then airlifted to a local trauma centre and was “undergoing surgery” at about 5 pm local time, several hours after the attack that occurred at approximately 10:47 am.

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Rushdie was about to speak at the special Chautauqua Lecture Series event exploring the theme of “More than Shelter” for a “discussion on the United States as an asylum for writers and other artists in exile and as a home for freedom of creative expression”.

He was joined by Henry Reese, co-founder of the Pittsburgh nonprofit City of Asylum, the largest residency programme in the world for writers living in exile under the threat of persecution.

Staniszewski said at approximately 10:47 am local time, Rushdie and Reese (73) had just arrived on stage at the Chautauqua Institution for the event. “Shortly thereafter, the suspect jumped onto the stage and attacked Rushdie, stabbing him at least once in the neck and at least once in the abdomen.”

“What we experienced at Chautauqua today is an incident unlike anything in our nearly 150-year history. We were founded to bring people together in community, to learn and in doing so, create solutions through action, to develop empathy and to take on intractable problems. Today, we are called to take on fear and the worst of all human traits. Hate,” Chautauqua Institution president Michael Hill said.

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 Hadi Matar, the attacker 

Police have identified the suspect in custody as Hadi Matar, a 24-year-old man from Fairview, New Jersey, who bought a pass to the event at western New York’s Chautauqua Institution. Matar is sympathetic to Shi’ite extremism and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), NBC New York cited law enforcement sources as saying on Saturday.

The IRGC is a powerful faction that controls a business empire as well as elite armed and intelligence forces that Washington accuses of carrying out a global extremist campaign.

Matar was born in California and recently moved to New Jersey, the NBC New York report said, adding that he had a fake driver’s licence on him.

FBI officials went to his last listed address, in Fairview, a Bergen County borough just across the Hudson River from Manhattan, on Friday evening, NBC New York reported.

There has been no official government reaction in Iran to the attack on Rushdie, but several hardline Iranian newspapers expressed praise for his assailant.

Ali Tehfe, mayor of Yaroun in the south of Lebanon, said the suspect was the son of a man from the town. The suspect’s parents emigrated to the United States and he was born and raised there, the mayor added.