Sir Salman Rushdie’s “feisty and defiant humour remains intact”, his family said after the author was taken off life support while receiving treatment for life-changing injuries caused by multiple stab wounds.
His son Zafar Rushdie issued a statement on behalf of the family on Sunday while the writer remained in critical condition following the attack at a literary event in the state of New York on Friday.
Sir Salman was stabbed about 10 times, including in the neck and the abdomen, as he prepared to give a lecture – said prosecutors who accused Hadi Matar, a 24-year-old US citizen, of attempted murder.
New York State Police said they are working with the FBI to establish a motive for the attack on the author of The Satanic Verses, a novel that many Muslims believe to be blasphemous.
Mr Rushdie said: “My father remains in critical condition in hospital receiving extensive ongoing treatment. We are extremely relieved that yesterday he was taken off the ventilator and additional oxygen and he was able to say a few words.
“Though his life changing injuries are severe, his usual feisty & defiant sense of humour remains intact.”
In his statement, he also thanked event attendees to the event at the Chautauqua Institution, who jumped into action to fight off Matar.
He said: “We are so grateful to all the audience members who bravely leapt to his defence and administered first aid along with the police and doctors who have cared for him and for the outpouring of love and support from around the world.
“We ask for continued patience and privacy as the family come together at his bedside to support and help him through this time.”
Sir Salman’s agent, Andrew Wylie, reported that the writer’s “road to recovery has begun” following surgery and the withdrawal of the ventilator.
He said Sir Salman, 75, suffered a damaged liver and severed nerves in an arm and an eye, and that he was likely to lose the injured eye.
“It will be long; the injuries are severe, but his condition is headed in the right direction,” Mr Wylie said.
Matar was taken to the Chautauqua County jail on Friday night and appeared in court the following day, where he pleaded not guilty to the charges.
A judge ordered that Matar be held without bail after District Attorney Jason Schmidt told her that the suspect took steps for the “pre-planned crime” by purposely putting himself in a position to harm Sir Salman by getting an advance ticket to the event and arriving a day early bearing a fake ID.
Matar was reportedly found with a fake driver’s licence that had the name Hassan Mughniyeh.
It’s believed that he used the surname of Imad Mughniyeh – the assassinated senior Hezbollah official who was close to Qassem Soleimani, the assassinated chief of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force.
A law enforcement official cited by NBC said a preliminary review of Matar’s social media shows he had sympathies for the IRGC – which has been labelled a terrorist organisation by the US.
Authorities are looking into those alleged sympathies, but there are no concrete links between Matar and the IRGC, the law enforcement official said.