Author Salman Rushdie, who has had death threats made against him for decades over his writing, was attacked during a literary event in New York on Friday morning.
A man rushed the stage and stabbed Rushdie as he was being introduced at the Chautauqua Institution in western New York, according to an Associated Press reporter at the event.
New York State Police Major Eugene J. Staniszewski said the attacker, identified as 24-year-old Hadi Matar of Fairview, New Jersey, jumped onto the stage and stabbed Rushdie at least once in the neck and at least once in the abdomen.
Staniszewski said several staff members and people in the audience rushed the suspect and took him to the ground before he was taken into custody by a state trooper. Meanwhile, a doctor who was in the audience treated Rushdie until emergency medical personnel arrived.
Rushdie was transported by helicopter to a local hospital. Staniszewski told reporters Friday afternoon that the author was still in surgery and his condition was not known.
Another individual on stage, Henry Reese, cofounder of City of Asylum, a Pittsburgh nonprofit that helps house writers living in exile, also sustained a “facial injury” in the attack, Staniszewski said. Reese was transported by ambulance to a local hospital for treatment and later released.
A motive for the attack is not yet clear, Staniszewski said. The FBI and Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office are assisting in the investigation.
Photos from the scene show Rushdie lying on the ground surrounded by people presumably attending to his wounds. A blood splatter can be seen on the white screens he’d been in front of.
Rushdie had a fatwa issued against him by the Ayatollah of Iran in 1989 following the publication of The Satanic Verses, with criticisms that the book was blasphemous against Islam.
He faced constant death threats, and a bounty of over $3 million was issued for his death by a group in Iran.
Staniszewski said authorities were working to obtain search warrants for various items, adding that a backpack and electronic devices that were found at the scene. Authorities believe the suspect acted alone.
Staniszewski said state police were not aware of any previous threats ahead of the attack, but troopers were present at the event at the request of the institution.
Michael Hill, president of Chautauqua, said the individual had a pass to access the grounds “just the way any patron would have.” The institution is a not-for-profit educational center that offers courses in art, music, dance, and other interests and hosts over 100,000 public events.
Hill said Friday’s attack was “unlike anything” the institution has ever experienced in its nearly 150-year history.
“We were founded to bring people together in community to learn and in doing so to create solutions through action, to develop empathy, and to take on intractable problems,” Hill said. “Today, now we’re called to take on fear and the worst of all human traits: hate.”