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Salman Rushdie able to speak after ventilator removed day after being stabbed 10 times, agent says

CHAUTAUQUA, N.Y. — Author Salman Rushdie, whose novel “The Satanic Verses” resulted in death threats from Iran’s leader in the late 1980s, showed signs of recovery Saturday, one day after he was attacked in western New York, his agent said.

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Rushdie, 75, was stabbed in the neck and abdomen 10 times by a man who rushed the stage as the author was about to give a lecture about the United States as a safe haven for exiled writers, The New York Times reported.

Hadi Matar, 24, of Fairview, New Jersey, pleaded not guilty earlier in the day on charges of attempted second-degree murder and assault, according to The Associated Press.

Update 8:42 p.m. EDT Aug. 13: Rushdie was taken off a ventilator and able to speak Saturday, one day after he was stabbed 10 times as he prepared to deliver a lecture in upstate New York, his agent, Andrew Wylie, confirmed to the AP without providing additional details.

Update 6:49 p.m. EDT Aug. 13: U.S. President Joe Biden issued the following statement late Saturday afternoon regarding the attack on Rushdie:

“Jill and I were shocked and saddened to learn of the vicious attack on Salman Rushdie yesterday in New York. We, together with all Americans and people around the world, are praying for his health and recovery. I am grateful to the first responders and the brave individuals who jumped into action to render aid to Rushdie and subdue the attacker.

“Salman Rushdie—with his insight into humanity, with his unmatched sense for story, with his refusal to be intimidated or silenced—stands for essential, universal ideals. Truth. Courage. Resilience. The ability to share ideas without fear. These are the building blocks of any free and open society. And today, we reaffirm our commitment to those deeply American values in solidarity with Rushdie and all those who stand for freedom of expression,” Biden stated.

Update 4:33 p.m. EDT Aug. 13: Prosecutors said “The Satanic Verses” author Salman Rushdie was stabbed 10 times as he prepared to speak at the Chautauqua Institution in western New York, according to The New York Times. Prosecutors revealed the extent of the 75-year-old’s injuries during the arraignment hearing for the man accused of stabbing him, 24-year-old Hadi Matar, of Fairview, New Jersey.

Prosecutors also alleged that the attack on Rushdie was premeditated and targeted, the newspaper reported. Matar traveled by bus to western New York and bought a pass that allowed him to attend Rushdie’s lecture.

Matar’s next court appearance is scheduled for Friday, CNN reported.

Update 2:48 p.m. EDT Aug. 13: Hadi Matar, 24, of Fairview, New Jersey, entered a plea of not guilty in a New York court on charges of attempted second-degree murder and assault, according to The Associated Press.

Matar’s attorney entered the plea on his behalf during an arraignment hearing on Saturday. Matar also appeared at the heading wearing a black-and-white jumpsuit and a white face mask, according to the AP.

Original report: “The news is not good,” Rushdie’s agent, Andrew Wylie, told the newspaper in an email. “Salman will likely lose one eye; the nerves in his arm were severed; and his liver was stabbed and damaged.”

The assailant was identified by Maj. Eugene J. Staniszewski of the New York State Police as Hadi Matar, 24, of Fairview, New Jersey, according to WGRZ-TV.

Rushdie was stabbed at least twice on stage at the Chautauqua Institution, located about 80 miles south of Buffalo, CNN reported.

The author was airlifted to a hospital in northwestern Pennsylvania and underwent surgery, a Pennsylvania police official told the news outlet.

Matar was born a decade after “The Satanic Verses” was published, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The motive for the attack was unclear, Staniszewski said during a news conference.

Matar’s attorney, public defender Nathaniel Barone, said he was still gathering information and declined to comment, according to WGRZ and The Associated Press. Matar’s home was blocked off by authorities.

The attack stunned the audience, who had come to the 4,000-seat amphitheater at the Chautauqua Institution to listen to Rushdie.

“It took like five men to pull him away and he was still stabbing,” Linda Abrams, who attended the lecture in the front row, told the Times. “He was just furious, furious. Like intensely strong and just fast.”

Ralph Henry Reese, 73, who was onstage to moderate the discussion with the author, suffered an injury to his face during the attack and was released from the hospital on Friday afternoon, police said.

Multiple threats have been made against Rushdie’s life since 1989, about six months after “The Satanic Verses” was first published in the United Kingdom, according to BBC News and The Guardian. Iran has offered a $3 million reward for anyone who kills him, according to The Washington Post.

“The Satanic Verses,” which fictionalized parts of the life of Muhammad with descriptions that many Muslims considered offensive and even blasphemous, according to the Times.


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