Shot Pakistan girl activist sent to Britain for treatment
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
ISLAMABAD, Oct 15: A teenage Pakistani rights activist was flown to Britain for specialist long-term care on Monday after being shot in the head by the Taliban for campaigning for the right to education.
Malala Yousafzai, 14, who was attacked on her school bus in the former Taliban stronghold of the Swat valley last Tuesday, was sent abroad at a time when her condition is "optimal and before any unforeseen complications set in", the military said.
An air ambulance provided by the United Arab Emirates took off from Islamabad airport after daybreak, and Pakistan said an intensive care specialist was accompanying her.
This frame grab taken from a handout video released by the Pakistan´s Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) on October 15. (AFP)
The shooting has been denounced worldwide and by Pakistan, which has said it will do everything possible to ensure Malala recovers, paying for her treatment and offering more than $100,000 for the capture of her attackers.
The cold-blooded murder attempt has sickened Pakistan, where Malala came to prominence with a blog for the BBC highlighting atrocities under the Taliban, who terrorised the Swat valley from 2007 until a 2009 army offensive.
Activists say the shooting should be a wake-up call to those who advocate appeasement with the Taliban, but analysts suspect there will be no significant change in a country that has sponsored radical Islam for decades.
On Sunday around 10,000 people gathered in Karachi for a rally in support of Malala, organised by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement political party.
Its leader Altaf Hussain, who lives in London and addressed the rally by telephone, condemned the Taliban and called on Pakistanis to unite against the militants, whom he said were dragging the country to hell.
But right-wing and conservative religious leaders have refrained from publicly denouncing the Taliban. They have warned the government against using the attack on Malala as a pretext for an offensive in the militant bastion of North Waziristan.
The United States has long called on Pakistan to wage an operation in the district. It is considered the leadership base of the Haqqani network, blamed for some of the deadliest attacks in Afghanistan, as well as a Taliban stronghold.
Malala was first airlifted from Swat to a military hospital in the northwestern city of Peshawar, then to the country´s top military hospital in Rawalpindi, where doctors on Sunday took her off a ventilator for a "successful" short trial.
The army said a panel of Pakistani doctors and international experts agreed Malala needed "prolonged care to fully recover from the physical and psychological effects of trauma that she has received".
It was also expected that damaged bones in her skull would need to be repaired or replaced, and that she would need "long-term rehabilitation, including intensive neuro-rehabilitation".
Malala is expected to be taken to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham in central England, a highly specialised facility where British soldiers seriously wounded in Afghanistan are treated, though there has been no official confirmation.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said she would receive specialist care in a National Health Service hospital and reiterated condemnation of the shooting.
"The public revulsion and condemnation of this cowardly attack shows that the people of Pakistan will not be beaten by terrorists. The UK stands shoulder to shoulder with Pakistan in its fight against terrorism," he said.
Security worries meant Malala´s departure -- in a white airliner with no insignia but a black stripe down the side, according to Pakistani TV footage -- was not announced until the plane was airborne.
The army said all expenses, including Malala´s air ambulance flight and treatment abroad, would be covered by the government of Pakistan.
Schools and mosques across Pakistan have held special prayers for Malala.
A senior police official has told AFP investigators have questioned dozens of suspects, but that the hunt for the main culprits is continuing.
Ahmad Shah, police station chief in the town of Mingora where Malala was shot, has said nearly 200 people were detained including the bus driver and a school watchman. But most had been released.