- Malala Yousafzai was a well known equality activist in Swat, Pakistan
- She was shot in the neck and head on a packed school bus in Mingora
- Pakistan’s top general declares her an ‘icon of courage’
- Taliban’s intended display of power backfires and prompts furious backlash against them
By Sara Malm
PUBLISHED: 09:08 EST, 9 October 2012 | UPDATED: 12:28 EST, 10 October 2012
Protests spread across Pakistan today in response to the shooting of 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai by a Taliban assassin which left her fighting for life.
Surgeons today said they have successfully removed a bullet from the teenager, who was shot in front of her classmates on board her school bus yesterday.
Malala was waiting to leave the grounds of her school in Mingora, in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, when a bearded man entered the bus and shot her and another girl.
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The 14-year-old is widely known and respected for her work to promote the schooling of girls and denouncing the atrocities committed by the Taliban.
Fury over the attack has spread across the country, with demonstrators protesting in Lahore, Peshawar, Islamabad and Mingora earlier today.
Many schools in Swat Valley closed their doors in protest over the shooting, and the country’s army chief vowed to fight on against militants as anger erupted across the nation.
The Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have taken responsibility for the assassination attempt and told a Pakistani newspaper they will target her again if she survives.
Malala suffered wounds to her head and neck in the attack yesterday afternoon. The other shot girl is in a stable condition.
A man approached the school bus and asked which one of the girls was Malala, Rasool Shah, Mingora police chief said.
Malala was pointed out by a girl near her, but after the young activist lied about her identity the gunman shot both of them.
A spokesman for the TTP told Pakistani newspaper The Express Tribune that Malala was shot because she was a ’secular-minded lady’ and that this should serve as a warning for other young people like her.
The country’s top military officer, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, issued a strongly-worded statement condemning the attack.
The powerful army chief rarely makes such public pronouncements, even when it comes to military matters.
Referring to the 2009 military operation that saved Swat Valley from Taliban control, he said: ‘In attacking Malala, the terrorists have failed to grasp that she is not only an individual, but an icon of courage and hope who vindicates the great sacrifices that the people of Swat and the nation gave, for wresting the valley from the scourge of terrorism.’
As well as the closure of schools, flags in front of the Mingora government headquarters were at half-mast, and police officers stood guard outside Malala’s family’s house in case they were also targeted by Taliban assassins.
Speaking from an undisclosed location, Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said that Malala would not be safe if she survives.
Malala was still said to be unconscious after her surgery and she may need to be taken to a foreign hospital for further specialist treatment. But doctors were happy she was out of danger.
She won the Pakistani National Youth Peace Prize last year. She and her family have previously been threatened by the Taliban for her campaigns and authorities must now decide how they can protect her from future attack.
The failed assassination displayed the viciousness of Islamic militants in Swat Valley, an area which has struggled with militant insurgent influence despite military operations.
At one time the picturesque region – nicknamed the Switzerland of Pakistan – was a popular tourist destination for Pakistanis. Honeymooners vacationed along the river.
Attempt: A Pakistani Taliban organisation have taken responsibility for the shooting which also injured another girl on the bus leaving their school in Mingora
Then the Taliban in 2007 began infiltrating the valley, eventually assuming near-total control of the region before being ejected in a massive Pakistani military operation in 2009.
A recent court case highlights the issues facing young women in Pakistan after the high court ordered a probe into an alleged barter of seven girls to settle a blood feud in the Dera Bugti district of Baluchistan province.
A tribal council of the prominent Bugi tribe ordered the barter in early September, the district deputy commissioner, Saeed Faisal, told the court. The ages of the girls have not been confirmed but local media reported they were between 4 and 13 years old.
The tradition of families exchanging unmarried girls to settle feuds is banned under Pakistani law but still practiced in the country’s more conservative, tribal areas.
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