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Suspects arrested in Taliban shooting of girl

Oct. 12, 2012 at 11:52 PM   |   Comments

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan, Oct. 12 (UPI) -- Three suspects believed to be involved in the shooting of a 14-year-old anti-Taliban activist have been arrested, Pakistani officials said Friday.

The names of the men were not released, Press Trust of India reported.

The country held a day of prayer or Youm-e-Dua Friday for Malala Yousufzai, who remained on a ventilator. The schoolgirl was critically wounded Tuesday as she traveled in her school bus in Mingora in Pakistan's scenic Swat Valley, Geo News reported.

Doctors said she had a 70 percent chance of survival and the next two days are critical in her recovery.

Two other girls in the bus also were injured, but not seriously, CNN reported.

Malala, who has been campaigning for education, especially for girls, since she was 11, defying the Taliban in her home region, underwent surgery Wednesday to remove a bullet lodged in her brain and remained in critical condition.

The girl, recipient of Pakistan's first National Peace Prize, was moved from a hospital in Peshawar Thursday to the better-equipped Armed Forces Institute hospital in the garrison town of Rawalpindi, which is next to Islamabad.

Maj. Gen. Asim Bajwa said Malala's doctors traveled with her to Rawalpindi, The Express Tribune reported.

"The panel consists of both military and civilian doctors but there are two foreign doctors as well who ... are consulted for expert opinion," Bajwa said.

Geo News said Malala remained on a ventilator. Doctors said the surgery was necessary because her injured brain had begun to swell.

The call for a nationwide Youm-e-Dua was issued by the chief minister of Punjab province who said the nation's image had been tarnished because of the shooting, Geo News said.

Pakistan's Dawn newspaper reported a statement from military leaders, including army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, said the armed forces were ready for any sacrifice to eliminate terrorism. The report said the statement raised speculation that a major offensive could be launched against the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, which claimed responsibility for the attack on Malala.

Kayani, who visited Malala at her hospital, met with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, the report said.

"We refuse to bow before terror. We will fight, regardless of the cost, we will prevail ... ," Kayani was quoted as saying.

Dawn reported that about 50 Islamic scholars belonging to the "Sunni Ittehad Council" called the Taliban attack on Malala un-Islamic and said the militant group's interpretation of Islam was incorrect.

"Islam does not stop women from acquiring education and by attacking Malala the Taliban have crossed the limits of Islam," the council said.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar told CNN the attack on Malala was a "wake-up call (to) a clear and present danger." She said the shooting may encourage more forceful calls in support of women's rights .

"Today, for [Pakistan], it could be, possibly be a turning point," she said. "I would keep my fingers crossed on that."

The Taliban have said Malala was targeted "because of her pioneer role in preaching secularism and so-called enlightened moderation," not because of her campaign for education.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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