According to New York State Police and an eyewitness, a man rushed to the stage at the Chautauqua Institution in western New York state and attacked Rushdie as he was being introduced to give a talk on artistic freedom. A State Trooper present at the event took the attacker into custody, police said.
Rushdie was taken by helicopter to a hospital but his condition was not yet known, police said. The police statement gave no motive for the attack.
Rushdie fell to the floor when the man attacked him, and was then surrounded by a small group of people who held up his legs, seemingly to send more blood to his upper body, as the attacker was restrained, according to a witness attending the lecture who asked not to be named.
Rita Landman, an endocrinologist who was in the audience, said that Rushdie had multiple stab wounds, including one to the right side of his neck, and that there was a pool of blood under his body, the New York Times reported.
“People were saying, ‘He has a pulse, he has a pulse he has a pulse,’” Landman said.
Bill Vasu, 72, who attended the event, said he had seen the man rush over to Rushdie and start attacking him. “I could just see his fists sort of pounding on Salman,” he said.
“There was just one attacker,” said Elisabeth Healey, 75, who was in the audience. “He was dressed in black. He had a loose black garment on. He ran with lightning speed over to him.”
Multiple witnesses said the attacker was able to reach Rushdie easily, running onstage and approaching him from behind.
Rushdie is the author of “The Satanic Verses”, a blasphemous novel about Islam published in 1988 which sparked Muslims’ outrage across the globe.
Following the publication of the book, Imam Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, issued a fatwa (religious decree), calling for Rushdie’s death.