Ten Taliban militants accused of shooting Pakistani teenage activist Malala Yousafzai have been arrested, a spokesperson for the Pakistan army announced this morning. The statement said that the “entire gang” involved in the incident have been “busted.” The group will be tried on terrorism charges.
The Pakistani military said that one man was captured and confessed, leading to the arrests of nine others who had been involved in the assassination attempt. According to the army they have captured the entire gang, known as “Shura,” which was led by a furniture-shop owner who also confessed his involvement in a 2012 murder. The army said that the group had plans to murder 22 other prominent local figures had they not been arrested.
Fifteen-year-old Malala was shot in the face on Oct. 9, 2012, as she was returning home from school. She had become an advocate for girls’ education as a young child, leading to a death threat against her by the Taliban. She and her family felt that the fundamentalist group would not harm a child, although they feared for the safety of Malala’s father, an anti-Taliban activist.
On Oct. 9, a man boarded her school bus and demanded to know which child was Malala. Once he had identified the girl the gunman fired three times, hitting her in the left side of the head. Two other girls were injured. In critical condition, Malala was flown to a military hospital in Peshawar where she underwent surgery and was placed in a medically induced coma. She was then transferred to Birmingham, England, for additional care.
Upon arriving in the U.K., Malala required multiple surgeries, including repair of a facial nerve due to paralysis in the left side of her face, but she had suffered no major brain damage. She went back to school in Birmingham in March 2013. A worldwide outpouring of support for the girl continued throughout her recovery.
General Asim Bajwa, spokesman for the Pakistani army, said in a news conference today that “the group involved in the attack on Malala Yousafzai has been arrested.” He said the arrest occurred in a collaborative effort between Pakistan’s army, intelligence services, and police. Bajwa said that the attackers had been working under instructions of Pakistani Taliban chief Mulla Fazlullah.
The shooting vaulted the young girl to worldwide fame, and she became known as simply “Malala.” On Oct. 10, 2013, one year after her attack, the European Parliament awarded her the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, and the same year she was also nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. She did not win the Nobel Prize, but was nominated again in March, 2014. She was named one of the most influential people by Time magazine in 2013.
Malala has continued her advocacy for women’s rights and equal access to education. She released an autobiography, entitled I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, released on October last year.
Even though Malala’s suspected shooters have been arrested, she and her family are unable to return home to Pakistan because they remain targets of the Taliban, who have vowed to kill them. Now 17, she and her family live in Britain, where Malala attends school.
By Beth A. Balen