Salman Rushdie stabbed onstage during event in western NY
Salman Rushdie stabbed onstage during event in western NY

Sir Salman Rushdie was undergoing emergency surgery last night after being stabbed in the neck on stage in America.

The celebrated author, who has faced Islamist death threats for three decades after writing The Satanic Verses, was knifed by an attacker who came out of the audience as he was about to give a lecture in western New York state.

Witnesses saw the knifeman strike 'ten to 15 times' in a matter of seconds before Rushdie, 75, fell to the floor covered in blood.

The attacker, clad in black and wearing a black mask, stormed the stage at the Chautauqua Institution as the writer was being introduced to a cultural festival before giving a speech about artistic free expression.

Hundreds of people in the audience gasped and blood spatter (bottom right) could be seen on the stage and surrounding furniture.

The Booker Prize-winning author was surrounded by staff and audience members, some of them holding up his legs in an apparent effort to send more blood to his chest.

Security guards and audience members pinned down the attacker on stage as the audience was asked to quietly leave the amphitheatre after the horrific incident at 11am local time.

A New York state trooper arrested the suspect and he was taken away by police.

Officials would not speculate on the motive.