|Malala Yusafzai, a 14-year-old education rights activist, has undergone surgery to remove a bullet lodged in her skull after being shot and injured while on her way home from school. |
Yusafzai, from Mingora, the main town in the Swat Valley region of northwest Pakistan, is being treated at Peshawar's Combined Military Hospital. She remains in critical condition, family members told Al Jazeera.
Ahmed Shah Yusafzai, Malala's uncle, said there was "strict security inside and outside the hospital", after the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), also known as the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack.
Pakistan's national airline has placed an air ambulance on standby to take Yusafzai abroad for treatment if needed, government sources said, but officials are wary of lengthy travel times given her unstable condition.
Yusafzai was with her classmates, taking a school van home following an examination at the Khushal public school, when the incident happened, witnesses told Al Jazeera.
Unidentified men stopped the vehicle, asking if it was the transport from Khushal school. When told that it was, one man asked: "Where is Malala?"
As she was identified, the assailant reportedly drew a pistol and shot Yusafzai in the head and the neck. Another girl on the bus was also wounded.
"The man started firing a handgun [...] then I don't know what happened to me and found myself in hospital," said Shazia Ramazan, a friend of Yusafzai who was shot in the hand.
Doctors at the Saidu Sharif Medical Complex in Mingora said the bullet penetrated Yusafzai's skull but missed her brain, leaving her out of immediate danger.
Pakistani Taliban claim
Ehsanullah Ehsan, a Taliban spokesman, told reporters that the group had repeatedly warned Yusafzai to stop speaking out against them.
"We will target anyone who speaks against the Taliban.
"We warned her several times to stop speaking against the Taliban and to stop supporting Western non-governmental organisations, and to come to the path of Islam."
The Taliban said it was not only "allowed" to target young girls, but it was "obligatory" when such a person "leads a campaign against Islam and Sharia".
The spokesman also referred to the Quranic story of Hazrat Khizar, who killed a young child, justifying it to Prophet Musa (Moses in other religions), by saying the boy would overburden his pious parents with his disobedience, and that God would "replace" the boy with a more obedient son.
Ehsan said that the Pakistani Taliban had not banned education for girls, "instead, our crime is that we tried to bring the education system for both boy and girls under Sharia".
"We are deadly against co-education and secular education systems, and Sharia orders us to be against it," he said.
The group also criticised media coverage of the shooting, saying: "After this incident, [the] media poured out all of its smelly propaganda against Taliban mujahideen with their poisonous tongues.
" ... will the blind media pay any attention to the hundreds of respectful sisters whom are in the secret detention centres of ISI [Pakistan's spy agency] and suffering by their captivity?
"Would you like to put an eye on more than 3,000 young men killed in secret detention centres, whose bodies are found in different areas of Swat, claimed to be killed in encounters and died by cardiac arrest?"
'Daughter of Pakistan'
President Asif Ali Zardari strongly condemned the attack, but said it would not shake Pakistan's resolve to battle fighters or the government's determination to support women's education. Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf called Yusafzai "a daughter of Pakistan".
Private schools in the Swat valley shut their doors on Wednesday, in protest at the attack, though government schools are open as per their normal routine.
Further demonstrations against the Taliban are also expected in the Swat district later on Wednesday.
Victoria Nuland, the US State Department spokeswoman, said: "Directing violence at children is barbaric. It's cowardly. And our hearts go out to her and the others who were wounded, as well as their families."
The local chapter of the TTP, led by Maulana Fazlullah, controlled much of Swat from 2007 to 2009, but were ousted by an army offensive in July 2009.
Local reports indicate, however, that the group was only driven into the surrounding areas, rather than being wiped out, and it has since staged a resurgence.
Tuesday's shooting in broad daylight in Mingora, the main town of the valley, raises serious questions about security more than three years after the army claimed to have crushed the local Taliban.
Yusafzai rose to international prominence in 2009, after writing a diary - under a pen-name - for BBC Urdu about life under the Taliban.
She had famously stood against the PTT's attempts to stop girls from going to school, and was awarded the National Peace Award for Youth.
The international children's advocacy group KidsRights Foundation nominated her for the International Children's Peace Prize, making her the first Pakistani girl put forward for the award.
Her struggle resonated with tens of thousands of girls who were being denied an education by the Taliban and other armed groups across northwest Pakistan, where the government has been fighting such groups since 2007.
She was 11 years old when she wrote the blog on the BBC Urdu website, which at the time was anonymous. She also featured in two New York Times documentaries.
In a 2011 BBC news report, Yusafzai read out an extract of her diary that gave a sense of the fear she endured under the Taliban.
"I was very much scared because the Taliban announced yesterday that girls should stop going to schools," she said.
"Today our head teacher told the school assembly that school uniform is no longer compulsory and from tomorrow onwards, girls should come in their normal dresses. Out of 27, only 11 girls attended the school today."
London-based rights group Amnesty International condemned Tuesday's "shocking act of violence".
"This attack highlights the extremely dangerous climate human rights activists face in northwestern Pakistan, where particularly female activists live under constant threats from the Taliban and other militant groups," it said.
Mian Iftikhar Hussain, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa's information minister, said Yusafzai had been targeted as "an icon of peace", calling for a sweeping military offensive against all anti-state fighters in northwest Pakistan.
Asked if Malala would continue her work if she recovered, Ahmed Shah Yusafzai, her uncle, told Al Jazeera: "Yes, of course.
"She always raises her voice in favour of girl's education, and she was going to establish a foundation named after her name - Malala Education Foundation - and she wanted to work for those children who are not able to go to the school."
Al Jazeera and agencies
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Pakistan: Bullet removed from teen rights activist - Al Jazeera English
Bullet removed from Pakistani rights activist - Central & South Asia - Al Jazeera English