Sir Salman Rushdie: Satanic Verses author is on a ventilator and may lose eye after he was stabbed on stage, says agent

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Salman Rushdie is on a ventilator and may lose an eye after he was attacked on stage in New York state, his agent has said.

The 75-year-old author suffered severed nerves in an arm and damage to his liver, Andrew Wylie said.

He was unable to speak after being airlifted to hospital and underwent hours of surgery following the attack on Friday afternoon.

"The news is not good," Mr Wylie said in a written statement.

"Salman will likely lose one eye, the nerves in his arm were severed, and his liver was stabbed and damaged."

The Indian-born British author was being introduced to the audience ahead of giving a lecture at the Chautauqua Institution, when a man stormed the stage and stabbed or punched him 10 to 15 times, according to witnesses.

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Sir Salman, who was forced into hiding for years and received death threats after his book The Satanic Verses was published in 1988, was about to give a talk on freedom of expression and the United States as a safe haven for writers.

As he fell to the floor, the man was pinned down by audience members and staff who ran on stage. The suspect was arrested by a state trooper soon afterwards, and is now in custody.

He has been identified as 24-year-old Hadi Matar from Fairview, New Jersey, who bought a pass for the event. Police say they do not yet know a motive for the assault, but they believe the suspect was acting alone.

According to NBC News, which cited a law enforcement official with direct knowledge of the investigation, a preliminary review of his social media shows Matar had sympathies for Shia extremism and Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Sir Salman was taken to hospital in Erie, Pennsylvania, by helicopter.

The Satanic Verses was Sir Salman's fourth book. It was banned in a number of countries with large Muslim populations, including Iran, after it was considered by some to contain blasphemous passages.

In 1989, Iran's then leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or edict, calling for Sir Salman's death.

The country also offered a bounty of more than $3m for anyone who kills the writer.

There has been no official comment from the Iranian regime since the attack on Friday but several hardline Iranian newspapers praised the attack.

The death threats and bounty led Rushdie to go into hiding for nine years under a British government protection programme, which included a round-the-clock armed guard.

Witness to the attack Pilar Pintagro told Sky News: "We were very scared because the first place (he was stabbed) was in the neck and that's where the blood started to splash everywhere, and then he stabbed him in the shoulders and continued stabbing several times because it was so fast.

"People from the audience actually jumped onto the stage to try to put him down and Salman was trying to walk away from this guy, but he continued stabbing several times, and he was finally pinned down."

'In shock'

The writer was helped by a doctor who was in the audience before emergency services arrived.

Police said the event's moderator, Henry Reese, suffered a minor head injury after also being attacked.

Another witness, Julia Mineeva Braun, told Sky News that as Sir Salman was being introduced "all of a sudden from the left-hand side of the stage a short man, (dressed) all in black, ran out, and he approached Mr Rushdie".

"It was very quick... we thought he was fixing his microphone, and then we saw the knife. He started stabbing him in the neck first… and Mr Rushdie got up and started running. We're still in shock."

Sir Salman's publisher Penguin Random House said they were "deeply shocked" by the incident.

"We condemn this violent public assault, and our thoughts are with Salman and his family at this distressing time."

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan described the attack as "appalling", adding: "We're thankful to good citizens and first responders for helping him so swiftly."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Twitter he was "appalled that Sir Salman Rushdie has been stabbed while exercising a right we should never cease to defend".

He added: "Right now my thoughts are with his loved ones. We are all hoping he is okay."

Sir Salman lives in New York City and became a US citizen in 2016. His lecture was expected to discuss America's role as an asylum for writers and other artists in exile, and as a home for freedom of creative expression.