(ISLAMABAD) — The 14-year-old Pakistani girl who was targeted and nearly killed by the Taliban for supporting education for girls has been flown to the United Kingdom for medical treatment.
Malala Yousufzai was transported on an air ambulance donated by the United Arab Emirates early Monday morning. The flight took off from a military air base in Rawalpindi and made a refueling stop in the UAE before continuing on to the United Kingdom, according to Pakistani military officials.
A senior Pakistani source in the United Kingdom says Yousufzai will be treated at a hospital in Birmingham, England. The Pakistani government has said it will pay for all hospital expenses.
“Last week’s barbaric attack on Malala Yousufzai and her school friends shocked Pakistan and the world,” a statement from British foreign secretary William Hague said. “The public revulsion and condemnation of this cowardly attack shows that the people of Pakistan will not be beaten by terrorists. The U.K. stands shoulder to shoulder with Pakistan in its fight against terrorism.”
A statement issued by the Pakistani military said she was flown to the United Kingdom to receive treatment for head and neck injuries, and that she requires “long term rehabilitation.”
Yousufzai was shot in the head and neck nearly a week ago while on her way home from school in Mingora, a village in the Swat Valley, home to a surge of extremists in 2009 who tried to establish Sharia law before a government offensive rooted them out. The assailant reportedly approached her school bus and asked those on board to identify the young girl. He then shot her and two classmates before fleeing.
Since the shooting, the young girl has been kept under medical sedation and required a ventilator to breathe. Doctors reportedly removed her briefly from the ventilator late Sunday night, after the girl showed a positive response to treatment. Sometime afterwards, her medical team made the decision to fly her abroad.
“It was agreed by the panel of Pakistani doctors and international experts that Malala will require prolonged care to fully recover from the physical and psychological effects of trauma that she has received,” the Pakistani military statement said.
Yousufzai, whose father ran a school for years in Mingora, had been facing Taliban threats for years. In 2009, when Taliban militants forced the school to close, she blogged her experiences for BBC Urdu under a pseudonym, shedding light on what it was like for young girls to live under Taliban rule. When the school reopened, Yousufzai continued to speak out, appearing on talk shows and making public appearances demanding that girls in Pakistan have the right to an education.
Her shooting launched an unprecedented outcry, cross-cutting through Pakistan’s complex religious and political lines. Political leaders from all parties, even those with historical ties to the Taliban, have condemned the attack. Pakistan’s normally reclusive army chief and the country’s prime minister have also made personal visits to see her in the hospital.
Initially, Pakistanis began protesting the attack in small numbers, with sporadic rallies and candlelit vigils attended — in some cases — by just dozens of well-wishers. As news of her attack spread, and politicians began making more forceful condemnations, the numbers quickly swelled.
Tens of thousands took to the streets Sunday in a political rally in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city. Young children carried placards with Yousufzai’s picture, and Altaf Hussain, the leader of Pakistan’s Muttahida Qaumi Movement, a key political party in Karachi, referred to her as “the daughter of the nation.”
Even Afghan President Hamid Karzai has sent his condolences, writing a public letter to Pakistani political leaders, asking them to do more to rein in terrorists who operate along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Paul Cruickshank and Michael Pearson, CNN