Hadi Matar, the 24-year-old man who has been charged with attempted murder after allegedly repeatedly stabbing author Salman Rushdie on Friday, had been in direct contact with members of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on social media, European and Middle Eastern intelligence officials told VICE World News over the weekend.
The stabbing had all the signs of a "guided" attack, where an intelligence service inspires a supporter into taking action, without direct backing or involvement in the attack itself, according to a NATO counterterrorism official from a European country.
Security officials would not give further details on the nature of the social media contact because the investigation is ongoing.
NBC News reported that in addition, a preliminary review of Matar's social media shows he had sympathies for Shiite extremism.
VICE World News added that Matar's family comes from the South Lebanese town of Yaroun, an area sympathetic to Iran and Hezbollah.
The Middle Eastern intelligence official pointed to the fact that even though Iran's then-supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa in 1989 offering a multi-million dollar reward for Rushdie's murder, Tehran has rarely mentioned the situation in the past decades.
He told VICE World News that "a 24-year-old born in the United States did not come up with Salman Rushdie as a target on his own. Even an avid consumer of Iranian propaganda would have some difficulty finding references to Rushdie compared to all the other, modern enemies, designated by the regime."
Although there is no evidence that Iranian officials were involved in organizing the attack on Rushdie, the Middle Eastern intelligence official stressed that a few Quds Force members directing an attack would not need high level approval from the Iranian regime.
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