Taleban shoot girl blogger, 14
A 14-YEAR-OLD Pakistani girl survived a Taleban assassination attempt yesterday, when gunmen shot her in retaliation for exposing militant brutality.
Malala Yousufzai, who also campaigned for girls’ education, was on her way home from school by bus in the former Taleban stronghold of Swat when attacked. Two other girls were injured alongside her.
She became famous in Pakistan when it emerged she was the anonymous blogger who had detailed Taleban abuses when the extremists controlled the Swat region in 2009.
However, that work and her campaign to get more girls into school earned her death threats.
Ehsanullah Ehsan, for the Pakistan Taleban, claimed responsibility for the shootings. Speaking by phone, he said: “She was pro-West, she was speaking against Taleban and she was calling [US] president [Barack] Obama her idol. She was promoting western culture in Pashtun [tribal] areas.”
Police said witnesses in Swat’s main town of Mingora saw two middle-aged attackers on foot. One flagged down the school bus and asked for Malala.
“One of them, who had a small beard, went inside and asked the children which was Malala,” said police officer Rasool Shah. “He fired three shots. One bullet hit Malala’s head. The second hit her school friend’s shoulder and the third caused a minor injury to the leg of another girl on the bus.”
Malala was taken to a medical complex in Mingora then flown by helicopter to hospital in Peshawar. The girls were said to be in stable condition last night.
Malala – whose name means “grief-stricken” – was 11 when the Taleban stormed into the Swat Valley, just 175 miles from Islamabad, and ordered girls’ schools to close. Pakistan’s weak government appeared to appease the militants, agreeing to a ceasefire in 2009 and leaving Maulana Fazlullah, a cleric, to preside over the area.
Malala’s blog – written under a pseudonym for the BBC Urdu service – is credited with being one of the first voices to alert the world to his brutal campaign of beheadings and violence as well as the closure of girls’ schools.
She described how classmates had to hide books under their shawls and lived in fear of having acid thrown in their faces. She continued to keep her diary when the Pakistani military eventually launched an offensive against the militants.
“I heard my father talking about another three bodies lying at Green Chowk,” she wrote. “I felt bad on hearing this news. Before the launch of the military operation we all used to go to Marghazar, Fiza Ghat and Kanju for picnics on Sundays. But now the situation is such that we have not been out on picnic for over a year and a half.”
The Pakistan army drove the Taleban from Swat in July 2009.
“I was scared of being beheaded by the Taleban because of my passion for education,” Malala said last year. “During their rule, the Taleban used to march into our houses to check whether we were studying or watching TV.”
She received a peace award from the Pakistani government last year and was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize in 2011.
Security forces made 12 arrests after the attack and schools closed for a day out of respect.
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