Teen activist Malala Yousufzai shot by Taliban in Pakistan's Swat Valley

Campaigner, 14, and second girl survive attack as fears of militant resurgence in Swat Valley grow

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 October, 2012, 12:25pm

A Taliban gunman walked up to a bus taking children home from school in Pakistan's volatile Swat Valley yesterday and shot and wounded a 14-year-old activist known for championing the education of girls and publicising Taliban atrocities.

The attack in the city of Mingora targeted 14-year-old Malala Yousufzai, who is widely respected for her work to promote the schooling of girls - something he Taliban strongly opposes.

She was nominated last year for the International Children's Peace Prize. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, calling Malala's work an "obscenity".

The bus was about to leave the school grounds in Mingora when a bearded man approached it and asked which one of the girls was Malala, said local police chief Rasool Shah.

Another girl pointed to Malala, but the activist denied it was her and the gunmen then shot both girls, the police chief said.

Malala was shot twice - once in the head and once in the neck - but her wounds were not life-threatening, said Tariq Mohammad, a doctor at the main hospital in Mingora.

The second girl was in stable condition , the doctor said.

Doctors at the Saidu Sharif Medical Complex in Mingora said Malala was out of danger after the bullet penetrated her skull but missed her brain.

"A bullet struck her head, but the brain is safe," said Doctor Taj Mohammed. "She is out of danger." In the past, the Taliban has threatened Malala and her family for her activism.

When she was only 11 years old, she began writing a blog under a pseudonym for the BBC's Urdu service about life under Taliban occupation.

After the Taliban were ejected from the Swat Valley in the summer of 2009, she began speaking out publicly about the militant group and the need for girls' education. Her efforts were recognised by Pakistan's prime minister, who awarded her the country's first National Peace award.

She was also given a reward of around US$5,300 after missing out on winning the International Children's Peace Prize, for which she was nominated last year.

Yesterday's shocking incident in broad daylight in Mingora, the main town of the once much-loved northwestern valley, raised serious questions about security more than three years after the army claimed to have crushed a Taliban insurgency.

"An attack on Malala in a highly secured area has sent a shiver down the spine of Swati people," said Fazal Maula Zahid, a member of Swat Qaumi Jirga, a local anti-Taliban group working for peace in the valley.

"It has also created doubts about the claims of the authorities that militants have been flushed out from Swat."

Meanwhile, a case before the supreme court yesterday highlighted other problems faced by women when justices ordered an investigation into the alleged barter of seven girls to settle a blood feud in a remote district in southwest Pakistan.

Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry began proceedings into the allegations, first reported in the local media.

The alleged trade happened in the Dera Bugti district of Baluchistan province between two groups within the Bugti tribe.

Agence France-Presse, Associated Press, The Guardian