Pakistan, Oct 10 – Pakistani doctors said Wednesday they had removed a bullet from a 14-year-old children’s activist shot by the Taliban in a horrific attack, as they consider flying her abroad for treatment.
Malala Yousafzai, 14, is in intensive care after being shot in the head in broad daylight on a school bus Tuesday, in an assassination attempt that has appalled a country used to extremist violence.
The attack took place in Mingora, the main town of the Swat valley in Pakistan’s northwest, where Malala had campaigned for the right to an education during a two-year Taliban insurgency which the army said it had crushed in 2009.
Malala underwent surgery overnight to remove a bullet lodged in her shoulder at the Combined Military Hospital in the northwestern city of Peshawar, where doctors described her condition as critical.
A military officer said a team of doctors will now decide if Malala needs further surgery or should be flown abroad.
“No decision has been announced so far,” he told AFP, adding that the overnight surgery had “removed a bullet from her shoulder”.
Provincial government spokesman Mian Iftikhar Husssain said there was a 70 percent chance that Malala would respond to treatment and not need further surgery.
State carrier Pakistan International Airlines told AFP it was ready to fly Malala abroad if necessary, most probably to Dubai.
Pakistani leaders, human rights activists and prominent journalists have strongly condemned the shooting, with the government and former cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan offering to pay for her medical care.
The powerful army chief General Ashfaq Kayani visited Malala’s hospital on Wednesday, the military said. He vehemently condemned the “heinous act of terrorism”, according to a statement.
“The cowards who attacked Malala and her fellow students have shown time and again how little regard they have for human life and how low they can fall in their cruel ambition to impose their twisted ideology,” Kayani said, vowing to continue the fight against extremism.
Malala won international recognition for highlighting Taliban atrocities in Swat with a blog for the BBC three years ago, when the Islamist militants led by radical cleric Maulana Fazlullah burned girls’ schools and terrorised the valley.
Her struggle resonated with tens of thousands of girls denied an education by Islamist militants across northwest Pakistan, where the government has been fighting local Taliban since 2007.
She received the first-ever national peace award from the Pakistani government last year, and was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize by advocacy group KidsRights Foundation in 2011.
Commentators said the brazen shooting raises serious questions about why the government did not do more to protect Malala and about the Taliban presence in Swat, three years after the army said it had defeated the uprising.
Amid public outrage, the Pakistani Taliban issued another statement seeking to justify the cold-blooded murder attempt on a child, saying Malala had preached secularism “and so-called enlightened moderation”.