UPDATE | Salman Rushdie taken for surgery after being 'stabbed in neck' after attack in New York

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Salman Rushdie.
Salman Rushdie.
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  • Salman Rushdie has been attacked on stage at an event in New York.
  • Witnesses say the assailant was caught. Rushdie was seen falling to the floor. 
  • Rushdie, an author, was due to deliver a lecture at Chautauqua Institution.

Police said Salman Rushdie suffered a stab wound to the neck when he was attacked on stage Friday, adding the British author's condition was not known and the suspect was taken into custody.

Andrew Wylie, a spokesperson for Rushdie, said in an emailed statement that "Salman is in surgery," but did not have further details to share.

Police had said: "A male suspect ran up onto the stage and attacked Rushdie and an interviewer. Rushdie suffered an apparent stab wound to the neck, and was transported by helicopter to an area hospital. His condition is not yet known."

Earlier, media reports have suggested that a man storm the stage at the Chautauqua Institution and began assaulting Rushdie as he was being introduced. The author was taken or fell to the floor, and the man was restrained, Bloomberg reported. 

New York Governor Kathy Hochul said Rushdie was alive and "getting the care he needs." Rushdie, 75, was taken by helicopter to a hospital but police said his condition was not yet known.

Police did not give a motive for the attack and it was not clear what kind of weapon was used.

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"We are dealing with an emergency situation. I can share no further details at this time," a Chautauqua Institution spokesperson said when contacted by Reuters.

The late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Iran’s supreme religious leader, pronounced a fatwa, or religious edict, on the writer on 14 February 1989, calling on Muslims to kill Rushdie because of perceived blasphemy against Islam in his fourth novel, "The Satanic Verses."

Iran later backed away from the order and Rushdie has lived relatively openly in recent years.

Video footage showed people rushing to his aid after he was attacked at the event in Chautauqua County, with police confirming a stabbing while declining to immediately identify the victim.

Chautauqua County Sheriff's office told AFP "we can confirm there was a stabbing," without giving further details.

Writings

The author, now 75, was propelled into the spotlight with his second novel Midnight's Children in 1981, which won international praise and Britain's prestigious Booker Prize for its portrayal of post-independence India.

But his 1988 book The Satanic Verses brought attention beyond his imagination when it sparked a fatwa, or religious decree, calling for his death by Iranian revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

The novel was considered by some Muslims as disrespectful of the Prophet Mohammed.

Rushdie, who was born in India to non-practising Muslims and himself is an atheist, was forced to go underground as a bounty was put on his head -- which remains today.

A decade in hiding

He was granted police protection by the government in Britain, where he was at school and where he made his home, following the murder or attempted murder of his translators and publishers.

He spent nearly a decade in hiding, moving houses repeatedly and being unable to tell his children where he lived.

Rushdie only began to emerge from his life on the run in the late 1990s after Iran in 1998 said it would not support his assassination.

Now living in New York, he is an advocate of freedom of speech, notably launching a strong defence of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo after its staff were gunned down by Islamists in Paris in 2015.

The magazine had published drawings of Mohammed that drew furious reactions from Muslims worldwide.

Threats and boycotts continue against literary events that Rushdie attends, and his knighthood in 2007 sparked protests in Iran and Pakistan, where a government minister said the honour justified suicide bombings.

The fatwa failed to stifle Rushdie's writing, however, and inspired his memoir "Joseph Anton", named after his alias while in hiding and written in the third person.

"Midnight's Children", which runs to more than 600 pages, has been adapted for the stage and silver screen, and his books have been translated into more than 40 languages.

- Additional reporting by Reuters

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