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Suspect in Salman Rushdie attack identified

STORY: Salman Rushdie, the Indian-born novelist who spent years in hiding after he was ordered killed by Iran in 1989 because of his writing, was stabbed in the neck and abdomen as he was about to give a lecture in New York state on Friday, according to police.

A man rushed to the stage at the Chautauqua Institution and attacked Rushdie as he was being introduced to give a talk on artistic freedom to an audience of hundreds, an eyewitness said.

The suspect was identified by police as Hadi Matar, a 24-year-old man from Fairview, New Jersey, who bought a pass to the event.

A New York State Police trooper providing security at the event arrested the attacker.

Eyewitness Brad Fisher described to Reuters what he saw took place..

"I was shocked and stunned, you know, shocked and stunned. I didn't believe what I was seeing. My first reaction was this has to be some kind of demonstration or stunt or something. And then, no, it got it got so real, so fast. And then it was terrifying…"

Rushdie was airlifted to a hospital and after hours of surgery was on a ventilator and unable to speak

A motive had not yet been determined, and It was not clear what kind of weapon was used.

Rushdie, who was born into an Indian Muslim family, has faced death threats for his fourth novel, "The Satanic Verses," which some Muslims said contained blasphemous passages.

In 1989, a year after the book's publication, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, then Iran's supreme leader, pronounced a fatwa, or religious edict, calling upon Muslims to kill the novelist for blasphemy.

Rushdie went into hiding for many years. The Iranian government said in 1998 it would no longer back the fatwa, and Rushdie has lived relatively openly in recent years.

Though Khomeini's successor, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said as late as 2019 that the fatwa was still valid.

Rushdie became an American citizen in 2016 and lives in New York City.