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Pakistan Girl Campaigner Critical After Shooting by Taliban

A 14-year-old Pakistan activist shot in the head by Taliban gunmen after she campaigned for girls’ education in the insurgency-hit valley where she lived is in a critical condition and may be flown overseas for treatment.

Doctors were attempting to control swelling around Malala Yousufzai’s wounds, Syed Zahir Ali Shah, health minister in the northwestern province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, said in comments broadcast by television channels. Options for further treatment are being considered after President Asif Ali Zardari ordered last night that arrangements be made should she need to travel abroad for surgery.

“Her skull and brain have been damaged, as clearly shown in the CT scan, and doctors say that the next 10 days are critical,” Bashir Bilour, another provincial minister, said in a television interview yesterday.

Yousufzai was last year nominated for the International Children Peace Award by KidsRights, a Dutch organization, after she began at age 11 writing a blog for the British Broadcasting Corp. under an assumed name. Her posts documented Taliban repression in her native Swat Valley and focused on their ban on girls attending school.

The targeted attack on a teenage girl who had been lauded at home and around the world for her courage shocked Pakistan. Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf called Yousufzai a daughter of the nation, while opposition leader Nawaz Sharif offered to pay for her hospital treatment. Television channels broadcast images of children praying for her recovery in mosques.

Clinton Condemns

In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised Yousufzai as “very brave in standing up for the rights of girls.”

“She was attacked and shot by extremists who don’t want girls to have an education and don’t want girls to speak for themselves and don’t want girls to become leaders, who are for a variety of reasons threatened by that kind of empowerment,” Clinton said today during an event marking the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts in the U.S.

“Yesterday’s attack reminds us of the challenges that girls face, whether it’s poverty or marginalization or even violence, just for speaking out for their basic rights,” she said.

Yousufzai was attacked because she was spreading secular thoughts and if she survived would be targeted again, the Karachi-based The News reported, citing Ehsanullah Ehsan, a spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban.

Gunman Shoots

A gunman walked up to a bus yesterday taking Yousufzai and other children home from school in the volatile northern Swat Valley and shot her in the head and neck. Another girl on the bus was also wounded.

Taliban guerrillas’ control of Swat ended after the army initiated a 10-week offensive starting in May 2009. The military campaign, which began after Taliban beheaded local officials and burned schools in a two-year fight to impose Islamic law, uprooted 2 million people from their homes in the forested, mile-high valley that lies 250 kilometers (155 miles) north of the capital, Islamabad.

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