ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistan airlifted a 14-year-old activist who was shot and seriously wounded by the Taliban to the United Kingdom for treatment Monday, a move that will give her access to the specialized medical care she needs to recover and also protect her from follow-up attacks threatened by the militants.
The attack on Malala Yousufzai as she was returning home from school in Pakistan’s northwest a week ago has horrified people both inside the country and abroad. It has also sparked hope the government would respond by intensifying its fight against the Taliban and their allies.
Over 100 Taliban militants attacked a police station near the main northwest city of Peshawar late Sunday night, sparking a gunbattle that lasted several hours, police said.
Six policemen were killed during the clash, including two who were beheaded.
Malala was targeted by the Taliban for promoting girls’ education and criticizing the militant group. Two of Malala’s classmates were also wounded in the attack and are receiving treatment in Pakistan.
The Taliban said they attacked Malala because she was promoting “Western thinking” and have threatened to target her again until she is killed.
Malala was flown out of Pakistan on Monday morning in a specially equipped air ambulance provided by the United Arab Emirates, said the Pakistani military, which has been treating the young girl at one of its hospitals. It’s unclear whether her family members, who could also be vulnerable to attack, accompanied her.
Video footage handed out by the military showed Malala being wheeled out of the hospital on a stretcher, covered in a white sheet and surrounded by uniformed army officers. She was placed in the back of an ambulance and driven to the airport, where she was put on a plane.
A panel of doctors recommended that Malala be shifted to a center in the United Kingdom that has the ability to provide “integrated” care to children who have sustained severe injuries, said a military statement.
“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 military said.
The British Foreign Office said Malala would be treated at a public hospital in the UK, but details are not being released for reasons of patient confidentiality.
“The UK stands shoulder to shoulder with Pakistan in its fight against terrorism,” said British Foreign Secretary William Hague in a statement sent to reporters. “Malala’s bravery in standing up for the right of all young girls in Pakistan to an education is an example to us all.”
Pakistani doctors at a military hospital earlier removed a bullet from Malala’s body that entered her head and headed toward her spine. The military has described her recovery as satisfactory and said she was able to move her legs and hands several days ago when her sedatives were reduced. They have not said whether she suffered any brain damage or other permanent damage.
Monday, the military said damaged bones in Malala’s skull will need to be repaired or replaced, and she will need “intensive neuro rehabilitation.” The decision to send the girl abroad was taken in consultation with her family, and the Pakistani government will pay for her treatment.
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