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Asia-pacific

Pakistani girl, 14, shot by Taliban over activism

Latest update : 2012-10-10

Malala Yousufzai, a Pakistani girl who rose to prominence after speaking out against Taliban militants who closed down her school in 2009, remains in a serious condition on Wednesday after Taliban gunmen fired on her school bus in the Swat valley.

Taliban gunmen in Pakistan shot and seriously wounded on Tuesday a 14-year-old schoolgirl widely admired for speaking out against religious extremists and in favour of women’s rights.

Malala Yousufzai was flown by helicopter to a military hospital in the frontier city of Peshawar, medical officials confirmed. Yousufzai remains in a serious condition, but doctors reportedly succeeded in removing the bullet that had lodged near her spine early Wednesday, Rezaul Hasan from the Press Trust of India told FRANCE24.

“She is in the intensive care unit and semi-conscious, although not on the ventilator,” a doctor requesting anonymity told the AFP news agency.

The young activist was shot in the head and neck when gunmen fired on her school bus in the Swat valley, northwest of the capital, Islamabad. Two other girls were also wounded in the attack.

Yousufzai became famous for speaking out against the Pakistani Taliban at a time when even the government seemed to be appeasing the hardline Islamists. After a lightening offensive in the Swat valley in 2009, the Taliban closed many schools for girls in the region, including Yousufzai’s school.

In a diary she kept for the BBC's Urdu service under a pen name, the then 11-year-old schoolgirl exposed the suffering caused by the militants as they ruled.

‘Barbaric and cowardly’

Tuesday’s shooting sparked outrage across the country, with Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf hailing Yousufzai as a daughter of Pakistan.

The United States also denounced a "barbaric" and "cowardly" attack.

Outrage across Pakistan

"We strongly condemn the shooting of Malala. 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," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan confirmed his group was behind the shooting.

“She was pro-West, she was speaking against Taliban and she was calling President Obama her idol,” Ehsan said by telephone from an undisclosed location.

“She was young but she was promoting Western culture in Pashtun areas,” he told Reuters news agency, referring to the main ethnic group in northwest Pakistan. Most members of the Taliban come from conservative Pashtun tribes.

Uncertain future for Swat

Islamabad agreed to a ceasefire with the Taliban in Swat in early 2009, effectively recognising insurgent control of the valley whose lakes and mountains had long been a tourist attraction.

The Taliban set up courts, executed residents and closed girls’ schools.

At that time a documentary team filmed Yousufzai weeping as she explained her ambition to be a doctor.

Pakistani surgeons removed a bullet on Wednesday from 14-year-old Malala Yousufzai, who was shot by the Taliban for speaking out against the militants and promoting education for girls, doctors said.

The army launched an offensive and retook control of Swat later that year, and Yousufzai went on to receive the country’s highest civilian award. She was also nominated for an international children's peace award..

Since then, she has received numerous threats. On Tuesday, gunmen arrived at her school and asked for her by name, witnesses told police. Yousufzai was shot when she came out of class and walked towards a bus.

Tuesday's shooting in broad daylight in Mingora, the main town of the Swat valley, raises serious questions about security more than three years after the army claimed to have crushed the insurgency.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2012-10-09

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