A 24-year-old resident of Fairview, New Jersey, has been identified as the suspect who attacked Salman Rushdie during a literary event in New York on Friday.
“The suspect has been identified as Hadi Matar, 24, from Fairview, New Jersey,” State Police Troop Commander Major Eugene J. Staniszewski said.
“Earlier today… the speaker Rushdie,75 and Henry Reese,73 had just arrived at the stage of the institution and shortly thereafter the suspect jumped out of the stage and attacked at least once in the neck and at least once in the abdomen.”
New York State Police have taken Matar into custody but are yet to press charges or ascertain his motive behind the act. The cops also did not disclose Matar’s nationality.
Matar also had a pass to access the grounds “just the way any other patron would have” at the venue, the president of the Chautauqua institute, where Rushdie was scheduled to speak, said.
Staniszewski said the authorities were in the “process of obtaining search warrants for various items. There was a backpack located at the scene. There were also electronic devices”. He added that it was assumed at the moment that the suspect was acting alone but they were investigating further with help from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Preliminary review of Matar’s social media showed him to be sympathetic to Shia extremism and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a law enforcement person told NBC News.
Though the police are yet to establish any direct links between Matar and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, NBC News reported that images of slain commander Qassem Solemani were found in a phone messaging app belonging to Matar. Soleimani was a senior military officer who served in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from 1998 until his assassination in 2020.
Rushdie faced death threats from Islamist extremists for years following the publication of The Satanic Verses. He spent nearly a decade in hiding after Iranian revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini called a fatwa on him for alleged blasphemy. A $3 million bounty was also offered for anyone who killed Rushdie.
The Satanic Verses has been banned in Iran since 1988 with many Muslims considering it offensive to their faith.
SALMAN RUSHDIE STABBING
The India-born author was stabbed multiple times as he was about to deliver a lecture at New York’s Chautauqua institute.
He was airlifted to a hospital where he underwent surgery and is currently on ventilator support. The 75-year-old author of Indian-origin suffered severe damage to his nerves — the stabbing has also pierced his liver and he may lose an eye, his book agent Andrew Wylie said.
His speech at the Chautauqua Lecture Series event was to be a “discussion on the United States as an asylum for writers and other artists in exile and as a home for freedom of creative expression”.
With inputs from agencies