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October 13, 2012

Pakistanis Pray for Recovery of Girl Shot by Taliban

by VOA News

Children in Pakistan and Afghanistan offered prayers Saturday for the recovery of a 14-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot in the head by the Taliban.

Pakistani Taliban militants shot Malala Yousafzai in the head and neck Tuesday as she left school. The teenager has been internationally recognized for promoting education for girls and documenting Taliban atrocities in the area near her home in Swat Valley.

Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf has described the attack on Yousafzai as a "crime against humanity" and an attack on Pakistan's core moral and social values.

Pakistani police arrested several shooting suspects Friday. Officials say the arrests took place in the northwestern Swat Valley where Yousafzai was shot.  

Earlier Friday, a Pakistani military spokesman said Yousafzai is in "satisfactory" condition.  Major General Asim Saleem Bajwa said the next few days will be critical in her recovery. Yousafzai remains unconscious and on a ventilator.

A Taliban spokesman in the Swat Valley said Friday the group's leaders decided a few months ago to kill Yousafzai, and assigned gunmen to carry it out. The Taliban says she is "pro-West," and that she denounced the militant group and called U.S. President Barack Obama her idol.

Yousafzai wrote under a pseudonym, Gul Makai, in a blog published by the BBC. In her blog, Yousufzai described life under the Taliban in 2008 and 2009, when militants carried out beheadings and other violence in the territory they controlled which included large areas of the Swat Valley in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province.

In Geneva Friday, a group of U.N. experts urged Pakistan's government to ensure that school children, particularly girls, are protected in the country, and that extremist groups do not prevent Pakistanis from realizing their human rights. The experts said trying to assassinate a 14-year-old girl who is supporting the rights of girls to receive an education is a "shocking" attack on human rights defenders in Pakistan.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.