Salman Rushdie's alleged attacker named as Hadi Mattar

A man jumped on to the stage at event and assaulted author, police said

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The man who allegedly attacked author Salman Rushdie on stage in New York state has been taken into custody.

As Rushdie was put on a ventilator after emergency surgery, police named the attacker as Hadi Mattar, 24, of Fairview, New Jersey.

He was arrested at the scene and was overnight awaiting arraignment, Maj Eugene Staniszewski of New York state police said. The motive for the stabbing was unclear.

Rushdie, a celebrated author, spent nine years living in hiding after death threats from Iran, sparked by the 1988 publication of The Satanic Verses.

For years, Rushdie has been trying to live a normal life as a writer, regular on the literary circuit and a champion for freedom of speech.

He suffered stab wounds while on stage at the Chautauqua Institution, in rural New York state on Friday.

“Working with the district attorney’s office, we are in the process of obtaining search warrants for various items,” said Maj Staniszewski.

“There was a backpack located at the scene. There was also electronic devices. So we’re working with the DA’s office to obtain search warrants and further the investigation.

“The suspect jumped on to the stage and attacked Rushdie. Several members of the staff at the institution and audience members rushed the suspect and took him to the ground.

“And shortly thereafter, a trooper who was at the institution took the suspect into custody with the assistance of a Chautauqua County sheriff’s deputy.

New York State Patrol Commander Major Eugene Staniszewski, speaks about the attack. AP

“Mr Rushdie was provided medical treatment by a doctor who was in the audience until EMS arrived on scene. Mr Rushdie was airlifted to a local trauma centre.”

The Chautauqua Institution, about 85km south-west of Buffalo in a rural corner of New York, has served for more than a century as a place for reflection and spiritual guidance.

Visitors do not pass through metal detectors or undergo bag checks. Most people leave the doors to their century-old cottages unlocked at night.

Literary and political figures have expressed shocked at the attack.

French President Emmanuel Macron said his country stood with Mr Rushdie.

“For 33 years, Salman Rushdie has embodied freedom and the fight against obscurantism … His battle is ours, a universal one. More than ever today, we stand by his side,” he said on Twitter.

J K Rowling and Stephen King are among the authors and notable faces voicing their disbelief after Rushdie was stabbed.

Harry Potter author Rowling tweeted: “Horrifying news. Feeling very sick right now. Let him be OK.”

King, the renowned horror writer, said: “I hope Salman Rushdie is OK.”

Rushdie was launched to fame after the publication of his 1981 novel Midnight's Children, which won the Booker Prize for its portrayal of colonial and postcolonial India.

The Satanic Verses has been banned in Iran since 1988. At least 45 people were killed in riots around the world in protests against the novel.

A year after it was published, Iran's former supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling for the author's death.

A bounty of about $3 million was offered for anyone who killed Rushdie.

Rushdie spent nine years in hiding in the UK under a British government protection programme.

Iran's government has since distanced itself from the issue.

Updated: August 15, 2022, 6:26 PM
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