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Writer Salman Rushdie stabbed on stage before New York lecture, suspect identified and in custody

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Famous author Salman Rushdie, who has been threatened with death by extremists for decades, was stabbed Friday for a scheduled lecture in western New York, authorities said.

A man stormed the stage at the Chautauqua Institute, about 70 miles south of Buffalo, at about 11 a.m. and assaulted 75-year-old Rushdie and interviewer Henry Reese, New York State Police Major Eugene J. Staniszewski said.

Rushdie is best known for “The Satanic Verses”, which is banned in Iran and considered blasphemous by some Muslims.

The suspect was identified by state police as 24-year-old Hadi Matar of Fairview, New Jersey. A preliminary assessment of his social media shows that the suspect was sympathetic to Shia extremism and to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC, a law enforcement official with direct knowledge of the investigation said.

The author was stabbed in the neck and abdomen at least once, Staniszewski said at a news conference. He was “still having surgery” in Erie, Pennsylvania, as the major spoke.

State police worked with colleagues in nearby Pennsylvania to determine Rushdie’s condition. A spokesperson for UPMC, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in Erie, said by email, “We have no information at this time” and referred questions to the New York State Police Department.

Reese, the co-founder of a nonprofit in Pittsburgh that hosts a residency program for writers living in exile, was treated for injuries to his face and released, the major said.

During the attack, people rushed onto the stage and quickly neutralized the man, who was taken into custody by a state agent and a deputy to the Chautauqua County Sheriff, Staniszewski said.

The video of the attack has already been reviewed by investigators, he said.

The venue had bolstered its law enforcement presence for high-profile events, the major said, explaining why a trooper and a deputy sheriff immediately took the stage.

“They asked for law enforcement to be present,” Staniszewski said. “And luckily we were.”

A doctor who had been in the public quickly provided assistance until emergency medical services were able to take over moments later, the major said.

Authorities didn’t know the man’s nationality and they weren’t sure if he had a criminal record, de Staniszewski said. The motive for the attack was still under investigation, but authorities have already targeted those apparent sympathies with an IRGC, which has been labeled a terrorist organization by the United States.

“We will work with the FBI, the sheriffs, and we will determine what caused this attack, what the motive was,” Staniszewski said.

On Wednesday, an IRGC member was charged with a plot to assassinate former national security adviser John Bolton, allegedly in retaliation for the US assassination of Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani in January 2020. The suspect, Shahram Poursafi, 45, from Tehran, was at large.

There are no definitive links between Matar and the IRGC, the law enforcement source familiar with the case said. A Matar cell phone texting app contains images of Soleimani and an Iraqi extremist sympathetic to the Iranian regime, the official said.

A backpack believed to have been left behind by the suspect has been brought to safety by members of the sheriff’s explosive ordnance disposal agency, and state robbers have filed for a search warrant to look inside, Staniszewski said.

They had also asked a judge to allow them to search electronic devices related to the suspect, he said.

Possible charges against the suspect would have to wait for word on the author’s condition, the major said.

Rushdie representatives did not immediately return an NBC News request for comment.

“The first stab was right in the artery”

Rushdie was sitting onstage and was introduced when a young man in black approached him, grabbed a knife and stabbed him right in the neck, said witness Julia Mineeva-Braun, who was seated in the fifth row.

Mineeva-Braun, who teaches Russian at the State University of New York at Fredonia, said she initially thought the attacker was a stagehand helping Rushdie with sound.

“From the left of the (audience) there is a man running, dressed in black, and he came and I thought he was fixing Mr Rushdie’s microphone because he got it up to his neck,” Mineeva told me. —Braun, 47, to NBC News.

“Then and all of a sudden we see the knife and the first stab was right into the artery, in his neck, and then several stabs a little lower in the shoulder blade.”

The stabbing unfolded and ended within seconds, as Rushdie tried to flee his attacker and they both fell just three feet behind the seats as spectators flooded the stage to help the writer and pin the attacker down, Mineeva-Braun said.

“He didn’t say a word, he didn’t say anything,” Mineeva-Braun said of the attacker, who appeared to be a young man in his twenties.

According to the witness, Rushdie appeared to be conscious and talking to emergency personnel.

“The Satanic Verses” and the fatwa against Rushdie

Rushdie is one of the most acclaimed novelists in literature today, acclaimed for his provocative blend of magical realism and historical allegory.

In books like ‘Midnight’s Children’ and the infamous ‘The Satanic Verses’, Rushdie stunned readers with his energetic prose style and impressed critics with his thematic ambition.

“Midnight’s Children”, published in 1981, earned him the prestigious Booker Prize.

“The Satanic Verses”, featuring a character based on the Islamic prophet Muhammad, caused outrage across much of the Muslim world when it was published in the late 1980s. dead.

The firestorm forced Rushdie into hiding for years.

Friday’s attack took place at about 8 p.m. local time in Tehran and was widely reported in Iranian state media.

In those reports, Rushdie’s “The Satanic Verses” and that the fatwa had been ordered were prominently mentioned.

But there was no immediate official statement from Tehran about the attack.

State Senator George Borrellorepresenting the region where Friday’s attack took place recalled purchasing “The Satanic Verses” when it was originally published as “a show of support for Mr. Rushdie and for the fundamental human right to free speech.”

“This shocking attack on a celebrated and well-known author, apparently motivated by fundamentalist extremism, has no place in America,” Borrello said in a statement. “There is no room in a free society for beliefs that demand that you kill someone who disagrees with you.”

Responses from the political and literary community

Majority leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., said the “attack is shocking and horrific.”

“It is an attack on freedom of expression and thought, two fundamental values ​​of our country and of the Chautauqua Institute,” he said in a statement. “I hope Mr Rushdie makes a speedy and full recovery and that the perpetrator experiences full responsibility and justice.”

In a statement, New York Governor Kathy Hochul said: “He is a person who has spoken the truth for decades in power… we condemn what happened, we condemn all violence and we want people to feel that freedom to speak.” and talk.” write truth.”

Nadine Dorries, de United Kingdom Culture Secretaryalso convicted the attack on the Indian-born British authorcalled it, “Terrible.”

“A terrible attack on a literary giant and one of the great defenders of free speech,” Dorries said.

Rushdie was scheduled to be released on Friday alongside Reese, who helped create an organization dedicated to protecting banned writers and free speech called City of asylum.

The Chautauqua Institute canceled its programs for the rest of Friday after the attack. The president, Michael E. Hill, said the rest of his… Chautauqua Lecture Seriesscheduled until the end of the month, would go ahead as planned.

“This has never happened in our entire history,” he said at the press conference. “Chautauqua has always been an extremely safe place.”

Rushdie published in 2012 “Joseph Anton: A Memoir”, recounts his years since the fatwa was issued.

While it was not immediately clear what the attacker’s motive was, New York-based Iranian journalist and activist Masih Alinejad called the stabbing “barbaric.”

“You can kill us, but you can’t kill the idea of ​​writing and fighting for our dignity,” she said in a statement. “I condemn the barbaric attack on Salman Rushdie. After surviving a kidnapping and assassination plot in New York, I will not feel safe on American soil until the US takes strong action against terror.”

This is a story in development. Come back for updates.


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