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Author Salman Rushdie attacked at western New York event and a suspect is in custody, police say

Rushdie was airlifted to a local hospital, police said. His condition is unknown. An interviewer also suffered a minor head injury, police said.

A man on the stage was seen “punching or stabbing” the novelist before the event, according to an AP reporter who witnessed the attack.

Medical staff and police were called to the amphitheater, according to a Chautauqua spokesperson who would not elaborate or confirm details about the incident.

A witness in the audience told CNN he saw Rushdie attacked on stage. The witness could not confirm what was used in the attack, adding that he was 75 feet from stage.

Rushdie was being introduced at about 10:45 a.m. when the assault happened, according to the witness, who said he heard shouting from the audience. He said a man in a black shirt appeared to be “punching” the author. The witness did not hear the attacker say anything or see a weapon.

Some people in the audience ran to render aid to Rushdie while others went after the attacker, the witness said.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul thanked first responders for their swift response and said her thoughts are with the novelist after the “horrific event.”

On its website, the Chautauqua Institution described Friday’s event as “a discussion of the United States as asylum for writers and other artists in exile and as a home for freedom of creative expression.”

In a statement the nonprofit education center and summer resort said it is “coordinating with law enforcement and emergency officials on a public response following today’s attack of Salman Rushdie on the Chautauqua Amphitheater stage.”

Furor over ‘The Satanic Verses’ hounded Rushdie

The 75-year-old novelist — the son of a successful Muslim businessman in India — was educated in England, first at Rugby School and later at the University of Cambridge where he received an MA degree in history.

After college, he began working as an advertising copywriter in London, before publishing his first novel, “Grimus” in 1975.

Rushdie’s treatment of delicate political and religious subjects turned him into a controversial figure. But it was the publication of his fourth novel “The Satanic Verses” in 1988 that has hounded him for more than three decades.

Some Muslims found the book to be sacrilegious and it sparked public demonstrations. In 1989, the late Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini called Rushdie a blasphemer and said “The Satanic Verses” was an insult on Islam and the Prophet Mohammed, and issued a religious decree, or fatwa, calling for his death.

As a result, the Mumbai-born writer spent a decade under British protection before the Iranian government announced it would no longer seek to enforce the fatwa in 1998.

CNN’s Mark Morales contributed to this report.


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