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Anti-Islam writer is on ventilator, will likely lose an eye, suspect pleads ‘not guilty’

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This still image from video shows Hadi Matar, 24, of Fairview, N.J., at left, being escorted from the stage as people tend to Salman Rushdie, center right, at the Chautauqua Institution, in Chautauqua, New York on Friday, Aug. 12, 2022. (Photo by AP)

Salman Rushdie, the infamous author of the blasphemous anti-Islam book – The Satanic Verses – has been put on a ventilator in critical condition and will likely lose an eye following a stabbing attack during a speech in the US state of New York.

"Salman will likely lose one eye; the nerves in his arm were severed, and his liver was stabbed and damaged," his agent, Andrew Wylie said as quoted Saturday by the New York Times, insisting, "The news is not good."

He further added that Rushdie was connected to a ventilator on Friday evening and could not speak after suffering serious injuries in the attack just before a lecture he was scheduled to give at the Chautauqua Institution in western New York.

State Police Troop Commander Major Eugene J. Staniszewski identified the assailant as a 24-year-old Hadi Matar from the nearby city of Fairview, New Jersey, noting that police are working with the FBI and local authorities to determine Matar’s motive.

The suspect’s birth was a decade after the publishing of Rushdie's 1988 blasphemous novel that insulted Islam’s Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and drew widespread outrage and protests throughout the Muslim world as well as a religious edict for Rushdie’s execution by the late founder of the Islamic Revolution, Imam Khomeini, who remains widely revered in Iran and across the globe.

Authorities are working with the district attorney's office to determine what the charges for the suspect will be "once we get a little further in the investigation and determine the condition of Mr. Rushdie," Staniszewski emphasized.

Authorities are also working to obtain search warrants for several items found at the scene, including a backpack and electronic devices, the police commander further stated, adding that authorities believe that Matar had acted alone but are investigating "to make sure that was the case."

The suspect was arraigned on Friday night and formally charged with attempted murder in the second degree and assault in the second degree, Chautauqua County District Attorney Jason Schmidt said in a Saturday statement.

The suspect jumped onto the stage and stabbed Rushdie at least once in the neck and at least once in the abdomen, state police said. Staff and audience members rushed the suspect and put him on the ground before a state trooper took him into custody.

Event moderator Henry Reese, 73, was also attacked. Reese suffered a facial injury and was treated and released from a hospital, police said. He and Rushdie had planned to discuss the United States as a refuge for writers and other artists in exile, according to local press reports.

Rushdie was airlifted from a field adjacent to the venue and was undergoing surgery at a hospital in northwestern Pennsylvania, Erie Police Department Deputy Chief William Marucci said as cited in local press reports.

Meanwhile, police in Fairview blocked off the street of a home believed to be connected to the suspect and were not allowing anyone, including residents of the street, in or out of the area. Residents were later allowed to enter and exit, but local police remained stationed outside the home.

At least two plainclothes law enforcement officers and two Fairview officers were seen leaving the driveway of the home.

Matar, meanwhile, has entered a not-guilty plea in a New York court on charges of attempted murder and assault, according to his attorney, state-designated public defender Nathaniel Barone, who declined to further comment on the case.

Rushdie went into hiding in 1989 under a British government protection program, which included a round-the-clock armed guard. He re-emerged after nine years of seclusion and cautiously resumed more public appearances in a publicity campaign against what he labeled as “religious extremism overall.”

Despite his anti-Islam campaigns, Rushdie was knighted by the British Queen Elizabeth II in 2008 and earlier this year was made a member of the so-called Order of the Companions of Honor, a royal accolade purportedly for people who have made a major contribution to the arts, science or public life.

US President Joe Biden, meanwhile, also released a statement on Saturday, saying that he was “shocked and saddened” by the attack on the anti-Islam writer.

“Jill and I were shocked and saddened to learn of the vicious attack on Salman Rushdie yesterday in New York,” Biden wrote, claiming: “We, together with all Americans and people around the world, are praying for his health and recovery.”

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