IRAN state media has chillingly hailed Salman Rushdie's attacker as a "courageous and duty-conscious man" after the author was stabbed in the neck.
Rushdie, 75, was rushed to hospital after he was knifed multiple times in New York yesterday after enduring years of death threats over his novel The Satanic Verses.
The Indian-born writer is on a ventilator and suffering from severed nerves and a damaged liver.
As Rushdie remains in hospital, Iran's dictatorship has celebrated the horror attack – branding him an "apostate" and "heretic" as they praised his attacker for "tearing neck of the enemy of God with a knife".
More than 30 years ago, the regime called for Rushdie to be murdered – forcing him into hiding.
US law enforcement last night revealed an initial investigation suggests Rushdie's suspected attacker – Hadi Matar, 24, from New Jersey – is sympathetic to the Iranian regime and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard.
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Ultra-conservative Iranian newspaper Kayhan commended the stabbing in today's issue as its chief Hossein Shariatmadari described Rushdie as "depraved".
He said: "Bravo to this courageous and duty-conscious man who attacked the apostate and depraved Salman Rushdie in New York.
"Let us kiss the hands of the one who tore the neck of the enemy of God with a knife."
FARS News, another regime-owned outlet, accused Rushdie of having "insulted the Prophet of Islam (PBUH)" with the book's "anti-religious content".
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The attack also prompted a number of sickening tweets.
Kevyan Saedy, a conservative Iranian pundit, wrote: "This deserves congratulation: God willing, we will celebrate Salman Rushdie going to hell soon."
Conservative social media activist Hossein Saremi said a "lion" had beaten Rushdie, with the attacker part of "Islam's soldiers without borders".
Rushdie was being introduced to give a talk to an audience of hundreds on artistic freedom at western New York's Chautauqua Institution when a man rushed to the stage and lunged at the novelist, who has lived with a bounty on his head since the late 1980s.
Horrified attendees rushed to his aid with pictures from the scene show Rushdie lying on the stage as a crowd surrounded him.
Blood could be seen splattered across a screen in the lecture theatre and a chair Rushdie was sitting on.
He was airlifted to hospital, where he remains and is unable to speak.
Andrew Wylie, his book agent, said: "The news is not good.
"Salman will likely lose one eye; the nerves in his arm were severed; and his liver was stabbed and damaged."
Rushdie, who was born into a Muslim Kashmiri family in Bombay, now Mumbai, before moving to the UK, has long faced death threats for his fourth novel, The Satanic Verses.
It was banned in many countries with large Muslim populations upon its 1988 publication.
A few months later, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, then Iran's supreme leader, pronounced a fatwa, or religious edict, calling upon Muslims to kill the novelist and anyone involved in the book's publication for blasphemy.
Rushdie, who called his novel "pretty mild," went into hiding for nearly a decade.
Hitoshi Igarashi, the Japanese translator of the novel, was murdered in 1991.
The Iranian government said in 1998 it would no longer back the fatwa, and Rushdie has lived relatively openly in recent years.
Iranian organisations, some affiliated with the government, have raised a bounty worth millions of dollars for Rushdie's murder.
And Khomeini's successor as supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said as recently as 2019 that the fatwa was "irrevocable."
Iran's semi-official Fars News Agency and other news outlets donated money in 2016 to increase the bounty by $600,000 (£500,000).
Fars called Rushdie an apostate who "insulted the prophet" in its report on Friday's attack.
Matar, of New Jersey, had a pass to access the event and is in custody.
State Police said they recovered a backpack at the scene as well as electronic devices.
Cops and plain-clothed officers were last night pictured at Matar's home in Fairview.
The 24-year-old allegedly stormed the stage and began attacking Rushdie – who was scheduled to speak alongside author Henry Reese.
Witnesses told AP News that Rushdie fell through a barrier to the floor and was seen with blood on his hands.
White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan described the incident as "appalling."
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He said: "We're thankful to good citizens and first responders for helping him so swiftly."
British PM Boris Johnson said he was appalled that Rushdie was "stabbed while exercising a right we should never cease to defend."
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