Investigators looking for motivation and activities of man accused in Rushdie attack


After author Salman Rushdie was stabbed Friday at the Chautauqua Institute in western New York, state and federal investigators were trying to determine the suspect’s motivations, plans, communications and activities as Mr. Rushdie was in a precarious position on Saturday .

Mr Rushdie, who had spent decades under sanctions by Iran, was on a ventilator after hours of surgery and could not speak, his agent Andrew Wyllie said in an email on Friday evening. Efforts to reach Mr Wylie on Saturday were unsuccessful.

Mr Wyllie said on Friday that the writer’s condition was “not good.” He said Mr Rushdie might have lost an eye, his liver was damaged and his arm was broken.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Saturday he was shocked by the attack on the author, who decades ago became a symbol of freedom of expression in the face of repression.

“In no case is violence a reaction to words spoken or written by others in the exercise of their freedom of thought and expression,” Mr Guterres said in a statement.

New York State Police said at a news conference Friday afternoon that there was no indication of a motive, but they were working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

New York State Police said 24-year-old Hadi Matar of New Jersey was arrested at the scene and charged with attempted murder and assault. According to officials, he is being held in the Chautauqua County Jail, where he was to be produced on Saturday.

A video on TikTok that was later removed showed the chaotic scene on Friday, when the attacker jumped onto the stage in a normally quiet center for an intellectual discourse. Mr Rushdie, who had been living relatively openly after years of a semi-secret existence, had just sat down to deliver a speech when a man attacked him.

Crowds of people immediately rushed to where the author was lying on the stage to offer help. Shocked members of the audience could be seen throughout the amphitheater. Some were shouting, some got up and slowly moved towards the stage. People started gathering in the corridors. A person can be heard repeatedly shouting “Oh, my God”.

A sheriff’s deputy and another law enforcement officer with a dog arrived at the scene about a minute later.

In a statement on Friday, the US national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, called the attack against Mr Rushdie “reprehensible”.

“This act of violence is appalling,” he said.

State police did not provide any updates on Mr. Rushdie’s condition on Saturday morning. A spokesman for a hospital in Erie, Pa., where Mr Rushdie is being treated, said it would not provide information about the patient’s condition.

At a house listed as Mr. Pea’s residence in Fairview, NJ, no one answered the door on Saturday morning. En route, a woman in a gray Jeep Rubicon held her windows up, waving at reporters in the air as she drove away. Several of Mr. Matar’s neighbors said they did not know him.

Antonio Lopa, who lives across the street from Mr. Mutter, said he saw 10 to 15 FBI agents outside Mr. Mutter’s home on Friday afternoon. They stayed till around 1:30, he said.

Officials said at a news conference on Friday that they were working to obtain search warrants for backpacks and electronic devices found at the institution.

Mr. Rushdie had been living under threat of attempted murder since 1989, nearly six months after the publication of his novel “The Satanic Verses.” The book fictionalized parts of the life of the Prophet Muhammad with illustrations, which angered some Muslims, who considered the novel blasphemous. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who led Iran after the 1979 revolution, issued a fatwa known as a fatwa on February 14, 1989. This ordered the Muslims to kill Mr. Rushdie.

In 1991, the Japanese translator of the novel was stabbed to death and its Italian translator was badly injured. The Norwegian publisher of the novel was shot three times outside his home in Oslo in 1993 and was seriously injured.

Elizabeth Harris, Chelsea Rose Marcus And Farnaz Fassih Contributed to reporting.


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