Thursday, May 24, 2018

Taliban reiterates vow to kill Pakistani girl

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan — Police said Friday that they had made several arrests in connection with the Taliban's shooting of Malala Yousufzai, a 14-year-old education activist who was critically injured, but militant commanders in northwestern Pakistan reiterated their intention to kill the schoolgirl or her father.

After Friday prayers, Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf visited Malala's family at a heavily guarded military hospital in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, where doctors were considering whether to send her abroad for treatment.

"The next 48 hours will be critical," Ashraf told reporters.

Extremists targeted Malala, who was shot in the head and neck while riding in a school bus Tuesday in Mingora, because "they were scared of the power of her vision," Ashraf said.

"She is the true face of Pakistan," he added.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said authorities had identified the two gunmen behind the shooting, but the men had not been captured. Police officials in the Swat Valley, where the attack took place, said they had rounded up about 70 people for questioning, including employees of Malala's school and the bus driver, and that some of them had been formally arrested.

A 15-year-old girl who was wounded alongside Malala described how easily the Taliban had been able to attack the school bus.

"A young man in his early 20s approached the bus and asked for Malala," the girl, Kainat Riaz, said in an interview at her family's home in Swat. "Then he started firing."

The fate of Malala, who has become a symbol of defiance of the Taliban's extremist ideology, has gripped Pakistan. Television stations have provided intensive coverage of her medical treatment, and leaders from across the nation's political and religious spectrums have united in condemning the attack.

The army is directing efforts to save Malala, who is on a ventilator. Government officials have estimated her chances of survival at 50 to 70 percent.

Sirajuddin Ahmad, the spokesman for the Taliban in the Swat Valley, said Malala became a target because she had been "brainwashed" into making anti-Taliban statements by her father, Ziauddin Yousufzai.

Both father and daughter remain on the Taliban's list of intended victims, he said.

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