Taliban Commander Regrets Attack on Shot Pakistan Girl Activist

A Taliban commander in Pakistan said he regrets an attack on Malala Yousafzai, the schoolgirl shot in the head by his group for her advocacy of girls’ education, according to a letter released to reporters.

Adnan Rasheed, who wrote that he was sharing his personal views rather than those of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, said the assault on Yousafzai was shocking and that he wished it had never happened, according to a copy of the letter appearing on the website of British broadcaster Channel 4. Associated Press said yesterday it had confirmed the authenticity of the letter from other senior Taliban members.

While traveling to school in Pakistan’s Swat Valley in October, Yousafzai was shot in the head and neck in retaliation for her campaign for girls to be given equal rights to schooling, defying threats from Taliban militants in her hometown of Mingora. The attack triggered global condemnation.

Yousafzai, who is living in the U.K. as she recovers, gained global recognition after the attack. During her address to the United Nations youth assembly last week on her 16th birthday, she vowed to continue her struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism.

Taliban guerrillas carry out attacks in Swat, an area they previously controlled before a 10-week army offensive starting in May 2009 ended their rule. 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.

Mighty Pen

Rasheed, who didn’t apologize for the attack, said his group attacked her because she was part of a campaign to malign the Taliban and its objectives. The group doesn’t oppose education for girls or boys, the letter said.

“You have said in your speech yesterday that pen is mightier than sword, so they attacked you for your sword not for your books or school,” said Rasheed, who according to AP escaped during a prison break last year. He’s reported to have taken part in an attempt to kill former Pakistan military leader Pervez Musharraf.

In the rambling letter, which quotes British philosopher Bertrand Russell and Henry Kissinger, Rasheed said he had wanted to warn Yousafzai of the dangers she faced as they came from the same tribe but had been unable to do so.

Now attending school in the U.K., Yousafzai in her speech on July 14 decried the continuing attacks against girls and women in her homeland and denounced the Taliban, who seek to impose their strict interpretation of Islam in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

While Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said he wants to open peace negotiations with the Taliban, the guerrillas rejected talks after the May 29 killing of their number two commander in a U.S. drone missile strike.

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