Malala was first taken to a hospital in Saidu Sharif and was later airlifted by a military helicopter to the Combined Military Hospital in Peshawar.     — Photo by AP

MINGORA: Malala Yousufzai, the 14-year-old Swat girl who championed the cause of girls’ education and dared to criticise Taliban’s attack on schools and schoolgoing girls, was shot and seriously wounded here on Tuesday.

As she struggled for life in a Peshawar hospital, Taliban claimed responsibility for the chilling attack and threatened to target her again and kill her if she managed to survive this time.

Malala’s courage was recognised and praised worldwide and she was nominated for several international peace awards. Pakistan decorated her with a gallantry award.

Malala, who has two brothers, wants to be a politician.  “I wanted to be a lawyer but I know there is need for good politicians, so I want to be a good politician to make good laws and good legislations. I want to do something for girls’ education,” she had told a private TV channel.

She was in a van going from school with two other girls. A masked man stopped the van while another jumped into the vehicle and asked who was Malala.

According to Swat’s District Coordination Officer Kamran Khan, the driver sensed the danger and tried to speed off but by then the gunman had shot her before jumping off and escaping.

Officials said Malala Yousufzai had been shot in the head. Two other girls also suffered injuries.

Malala was first taken to a hospital in Saidu Sharif and was later airlifted by a military helicopter to the Combined Military Hospital in Peshawar.

An official at the CMH said her condition was critical. According to late-night TV reports, a medical board will again examine her on Wednesday to decide whether she needed to be sent abroad for treatment.

A military official said a single bullet had gone through her temple and hit her shoulder.

“The bullet has brushed her brain and she is in a semi-conscious state. She is being kept under observation. Her condition is critical,” the official said, requesting not to be named.

(According to western news agencies, Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said the group had carried out the attack after repeatedly warning Malala to stop speaking out against them. “We will target anyone who speaks against the Taliban,” he said by telephone from an undisclosed location.

“We warned her several times to stop speaking against the Taliban and to stop supporting western NGOs, and to come to the path of Islam.”) Malala won international recognition for highlighting Taliban atrocities in Swat with a blog for the BBC Urdu website three years ago, when Taliban led by Maulana Fazlullah burned girls’ schools and terrorised the valley.

A neurosurgeon who examined Malala’s CT scan and MRI reports said she was in critical condition. DCO Kamran Khan said the military and police had launched a search operation to arrest the attackers.

Her father, Ziauddin Yousufzai, was optimistic about recovery of her daughter.

“God willing my daughter will be alright,” he told reporters at the hospital.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Ameer Haider Khan Hoti announced that Malala would be sent abroad for treatment.

The military had cleared the tourist hotspot of Swat of militants in a 2009 operation.

Agencies add: Malala was 11 when she wrote the blog on the BBC website, which at the time was anonymous. She also featured in two New York Times documentaries.

Her struggle resonated with tens of thousands of girls who had been deprived of the right to get education by Taliban.

In a 2011 BBC news report she read out an extract of her diary that gave a sense of the fear she endured under the Taliban.

“I was very much scared because the Taliban announced yesterday that girls should stop going to schools.

“Today our head teacher told the school assembly that school uniform is no longer compulsory and from tomorrow onwards, girls should come in their normal dresses. Out of 27, only 11 girls attended the school today,” she said.

“My friend came to me and said, ‘for God’s sake, answer me honestly, is our school going to be attacked by the Taliban?’

“During the morning assembly we were told not to wear colourful clothes as the Taliban would object.”

She received the first-ever national peace award from the government last year, and was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize by the advocacy group KidsRights Foundation in 2011.

London-based rights group Amnesty International condemned the shocking act of violence against a girl bravely fighting for education.

“This attack highlights the extremely dangerous climate human rights activists face in northwestern Pakistan, where particularly female activists live under constant threats from the Taliban and other militant groups,” it said.

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