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

Author Salman Rushdie is tended to after he was attacked during a lecture, Friday, Aug. 12, 2022, at the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, N.Y., about 75 miles (120 km) south of Buffalo. (AP Photo/Joshua Goodman)
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Author Salman Rushdie is tended to after he was attacked during a lecture, Friday, Aug. 12, 2022, at the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, N.Y., about 75 miles (120 km) south of Buffalo. (AP Photo/Joshua Goodman)

By Ray Sanchez, Adam Thomas, Kristina Sgueglia and Lauren Said-Moorhouse, CNN

(CNN)Salman Rushdie -- a celebrated author and winner of the world's top literary prizes whose writings generated death threats -- was attacked and apparently stabbed in the neck on stage Friday before giving a lecture at the Chautauqua Institution in western New York, State Police said.

The suspect was taken into custody by a state trooper at the event, police said.

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.

CHELTENHAM, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 12: Salman Rushdie, 2019 Booker Prize, shortlisted author, at the Cheltenham Literature Festival 2019 on October 12, 2019 in Cheltenham, England. (Photo by David Levenson/Getty Images)

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."

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