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Pakistani Child Rights Icon Injured In Attack

  • RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal

Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for an attack against a Pakistani schoolgirl who gained international fame for writing diaries about Taliban atrocities and attending school despite hard-line threats.

Malala Yousafzai is in critical condition after one or more attackers opened fire on her school van.

Essa Khankhel, a local journalist, told RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal that Yousafzai was targeted on October 9 while returning home from school in Saidu Sharif, the capital of the northwestern Swat district.

Reports suggest one assailant asked which child was Yousafzai before opening fire.

In claiming responsibility, the Taliban called Yousafzai's work "obscenity."

Yousafzai was struck in the head and the neck, Swat district coordination officer, Kaman Rahman, told Radio Mashaal.

Another student was shot in the hand.

Yousafzai was initially being treated in a hospital in Saidu Sharif before being transferred via government helicopter to Peshawar. The French news agency AFP quotes doctors on October 10 as saying Yousafzai is in critical condition with a bullet lodged near her neck and that she may be flown abroad for treatment.

WATCH (Warning: graphic content): Yousafzai was rushed to a Swat-area hospital before officials said she was to be airlifted to Peshawar:

Yousafzai won international and Pakistani prizes for highlighting the plight of the people of Swat -- where lawlessness leaves residents vulnerable to militants and the crossfire from security operations -- by blogging for the BBC in 2009.

Amnesty International denounced the Taliban for what it called the militia's "shocking act of violence."

"This attack highlights the extremely dangerous climate many human rights activists face in northwestern Pakistan, where female activists in particular live under constant threats from the Taliban and other militant groups," said Mustafa Qadri, Amnesty International's Pakistan researcher. "In the last 12 months, at least two activists working on women’s education, Farida Afridi and Zarteef Afridi, were killed in a wave of targeted attacks by the Taliban and other groups in the region.

Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf condemned the attack and called Yousafzai a "daughter of Pakistan."

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland called the shooting "barbaric" and "cowardly."

Leila Zerrougui, the UN special representative for children in armed conflict, condemned the attack "in the harshest terms."

With additional reporting by live Pakistani TV broadcasts and thenews.com.pk

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