, the author whose writing led to death threats from Iran in the 1980s, was stabbed Friday as he was about to give a lecture in western New York, authorities said. The 75-year-old author was stabbed at least once in the neck and once in the abdomen and is still in surgery, officials said during a Friday evening press conference.
Hadi Matar, 24, of Fairview, New Jersey, was identified as the suspect in the stabbing, Major Eugene J. Staniszewski of the New York State Police told reporters. He had a pass to access the grounds, just like the others who were in the audience, officials said.
Matar was taken into custody by a state trooper assigned to the event, he added.
Authorities believe he acted alone and are working to determine a motive for the attack.
An Associated Press reporter witnessed a man storm the stage at the Chautauqua Institution and begin attacking Rushdie as he was being introduced. Rushdie was pushed or fell to the floor, and the man was restrained.
Rushdie was quickly surrounded by a small group of people who held up his legs, presumably to send more blood to his chest. Officials said a doctor who was in the audience helped care for Rushdie while they waited for EMTs to arrive.
Rushdie’s agent confirmed Friday afternoon that he was in surgery. During the 5 p.m. press conference, Staniszewski said he was still in surgery. His condition was not immediately known.
Staniszewski said that the suspect also attacked another speaker, who suffered a minor face injury. He was taken to a hospital and has been released, Staniszewski said.
Video said to be of the aftermath of the attack was posted on social media.
Hundreds of people in the audience gasped at the sight of the attack and were then evacuated.
“Our thoughts are with Salman & his loved ones following this horrific event,” New York Governor Kathy Hochul tweeted after the attack.
Rushdie was at the event to discuss “the United States as asylum for writers and other artists in exile and as a home for freedom of creative expression,” according to the Chautauqua Institution.
“We are dealing with an emergency situation. I can share no further details at this time,” a Chautauqua Institution spokesperson told Reuters.
Video posted to Twitter appeared to show Rushdie being taken to a medical helicopter.
Rushdie’s book “The Satanic Verses” has been banned in Iran since 1988, as many Muslims consider it to be blasphemous. A year later, Iran’s late leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or edict, calling for Rushdie’s death.
Iran’s government has long since distanced itself from Khomeini’s decree, but anti-Rushdie sentiment lingered. In 2012, a semi-official Iranian religious foundation raised the bounty for Rushdie from $2.8 million to $3.3 million.
Rushdie dismissed that threat at the time, saying there was “no evidence” of people being interested in the reward. That year, Rushdie published a memoir, “Joseph Anton,” about his experience living under the fatwa.
, Rushdie addressed the killings of 12 people at the Paris satirical magazine , saying the right to free speech is absolute or else it isn’t free.
“Bothand use the same three-word phrase which in my mind says it all, which is, ‘Freedom is Indivisible,'” he said. “You can’t slice it up, otherwise it ceases to be freedom. You can dislike Charlie Hebdo. … But the fact that you dislike them has nothing to do with their right to speak.”