Pakistani girl Malala Yousufzai who was wounded in an assassination attempt by the Taliban arrives in Britain for NHS treatment


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The Independent Online

The teenage Pakistani girl shot and wounded in an assassination attempt by the Taliban has arrived in Britain after doctors decided she would require long-term care to recover from the attack. She is to receive specialist treatment in a NHS hospital.

Malala Yousufzai, 14, was flown from Islamabad on Monday morning in a specially equipped air ambulance provided by the United Arab Emirates. It was revealed that the decision to transfer the teenager had not been announced in advance for security reasons.

The teenager will be treated at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.

Mian Iftikhar Hussain, a spokesman for the government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province where Malala is from, told The Independent the decision had been taken because it had emerged that the girl would need long-term care. "Everything is being arranged by the government of Pakistan," he added.

A statement released by the Pakistani military, which has been overseeing Malala's care, said the team of doctors in charge of her treatment were happy with her progress and the developments so far.

But it said the doctors and international consultants had come to the conclusion Malala would require "prolonged care to fully recover from the physical and psychological effects of trauma that she has received".

It added: "It is expected that in due course of time [we will] need to repair or replace damaged bones of the skull and long-term rehabilitation including intensive neuro rehabilitation. It was the view that if Malala was going to be transferred overseas to a centre which could provide the required integrated care then it should be during this time window whilst her condition was optimal and before any unforeseen complications had set in. Malala's family was consulted and their wishes were also taken into consideration."

Malala was shot last week along with two of her classmates as they were returning home from school in Pakistan's Swat valley. The Taliban said it had targeted the youngster because of role as a champion of children's education and because of her "Western" views. It claimed there was justification within Islam for such an assault and that if she survived it would try again to kill her.

But the shooting of the girl who came to public prominence after anonymously publishing a diary during the years the Taliban controlled the Swat valley and closed girls' schools, has triggered a wave of revulsion and anger, both within Pakistan and beyond. Some have suggested it may even mark a turning point in Pakistan's sometimes hazy attitude about the militants.

On Sunday, tens of thousands of people attended a rally in Karachi to support her. But most protests against the shooting have been relatively small until now, usually attracting no more than a few hundred people. The Associated Press reported that these rallies have been tiny compared to the tens of thousands of people who held violent protests in the country last month against a film produced in the United States that denigrated the Prophet Muhammad.

One of the political leaders to speak out vociferously against the attack has been the often controversial Altaf Hussain, head of the Muttahida Quami Movement which organised Sunday's rally. Speaking to the audience by telephone from London, where he is in self-imposed exile because of legal cases pending against him, he said the Taliban gunmen who had targeted Malala were "beasts". "Malala Yousufzai is a beacon of knowledge. She is the daughter of the nation," he added.

Doctors treating Malala had always held open the option of sending her abroad for further treatment, after military surgeons removed a bullet that had passed through her head into her shoulder and were able to stabilise her condition. It is understood that two British experts were among those providing advice to the Pakistani team.

The Foreign Office in London confirmed that Pakistan will meet the costs of the treatment.

In a statement, Foreign Secretary William Hague, said: "Last week's barbaric attack on Malala Yousafzai and her school friends shocked Pakistan and the world.  Malala's bravery in standing up for the right of all young girls in Pakistan to an education is an example to us all."

He added: "Malala will now receive specialist medical care in an NHS hospital.  Our thoughts remain with Malala and her family at this difficult time."

The Taliban began moving into the onetime tourist destination of Swat in 2007 and quickly extended its reach to much of the valley by the next year. They set about imposing their will on residents by forcing men to grow beards, preventing women from going to the market and blowing up many schools.

They were eventually driven out by the Pakistani military in 2009.

The teenager wrote about her experiences in a journal for the BBC under a pseudonym when she was just 11. After the Taliban were pushed out of the Swat Valley in 2009 by the Pakistani military, she became even more outspoken in advocating for girls' education.

The police have arrested four people in connection with the attack.

They were among about 100 people rounded up last week. Most were later released on bail.