Taliban claims attack on schoolgirl justified

Last updated 07:24 17/10/2012
Reuters

Raw footage as British doctors for the Pakistani girl shot by the Taleban say her prognosis for a decent recovery is good.

Malala Yousufzai
Reuters
ADVOCATE: Malala Yousufzai, the 14-year-old schoolgirl who was shot by the Taliban, is seen in Swat Valley, northwest Pakistan, in this undated file photo.

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Taliban insurgents have said that the Pakistani schoolgirl its gunmen shot in the head deserved to die because she had spoken out against the group and praised US President Barack Obama.

Malala Yousufzai, 14, was flown to Britain on Monday, where doctors said she has every chance of making a "good recovery".

Pakistani surgeons removed a bullet from near her spinal cord during a three-hour operation the day after the attack last week, but she now needs intensive specialist follow-up care.

Authorities have said they have made several arrests in connection with the case but have given no details.

Pakistan's Taliban described Yousufzai as a "spy of the West".

"For this espionage, infidels gave her awards and rewards. And Islam orders killing of those who are spying for enemies," the group said in a statement.

"She used to propagate against mujahideen (holy warriors) to defame (the) Taliban. The Koran says that people propagating against Islam and Islamic forces would be killed.

"We targeted her because she would speak against the Taliban while sitting with shameless strangers and idealised the biggest enemy of Islam, Barack Obama."

Yousufzai, a cheerful schoolgirl who had wanted to become a doctor before agreeing to her father's wishes that she strive to be a politician, has become a potent symbol of resistance against the Taliban's efforts to deprive girls of an education.

Pakistanis have held some protests and candlelight vigils but most government officials have refrained from publicly criticising the Taliban by name over the attack, in what critics say is a lack of resolve against extremism.

"We did not attack her for raising voice for education. We targeted her for opposing mujahideen and their war," said the Taliban. "Shariah (Islamic law) says that even a child can be killed if he is propagating against Islam."

Dr Dave Rosser meanwhile, said they believed she has a chance of making a good recovery on every level but added that her treatment and rehabilitation could take months.

He told reporters Yousufzai, whose shooting has drawn widespread condemnation, had not yet been assessed by British medics but said she would not have been brought to Britain at all if her prognosis was not good.

TV footage showed a patient, believed to be the schoolgirl, being rushed from an ambulance into the hospital surrounded by a large team of medical staff.

She will now undergo scans to reveal the extent of her injuries, but Rosser said they could not provide any further details without her agreement.

Pakistani surgeons removed a bullet from near her spinal cord during a three-hour operation the day after the attack last week, but she now needs intensive specialist follow-up care.

The unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, a large blue and white glass-plated complex in the south of England's second city, has treated every British battle casualty for the last decade, Rossner said.

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Built at a cost of 545 million pounds (NZ$1.7 billion), the hospital has the world's largest single-floor critical care unit for patients with gunshot wounds, burns, spinal damage and major head injuries.

Treatment for the schoolgirl is likely to include repairing damaged bones in her skull and complex follow-up neurological treatment.

"Injuries to bones in the skull can be treated very successfully by the neurosurgeons and the plastic surgeons, but it is the damage to the blood supply to the brain that will determine long-term disability," said Duncan Bew, consultant trauma surgeon at Barts Health NHS Trust in London.

Judging the best way forward in such difficult cases requires a wide range of experienced medics working as a team.

"In trauma, it is really the co-ordinated impact of intensive care that is critical. It's not just about keeping the patient alive but also maximising their rehabilitation potential. With neurological injuries that is paramount," Bew said.

Doctors said youth was on her side since a young brain has more ability to recover from injury than a mature one.

"On the positive side, Malala has passed two major hurdles - the removal of the bullet and the very critical 48-hour window after surgery," said Anders Cohen, head of neurosurgery at the Brooklyn Hospital Centre in New York.

MALALA'S SECURITY A PRIORITY

Compared with some of the nation's ageing hospitals, the new National Health Service (NHS) hospital offers a spectrum of services ranging from plastic surgery to neuroscience.

They may all be needed in Malala's case.

The hospital and government officials declined to give any details about the security measures that would be put in place to protect Malala but a spokesman for the interior ministry said her security was "a priority for both Pakistan and the UK".

A hospital spokesman said no extra measures were in place but because the unit treated British military personnel it already had "fairly robust security".

Care of soldiers on the battlefield has improved dramatically in recent years, so that many now survive injuries that would have been a death sentence in the past.

As a result, Birmingham now handles extremely challenging injuries that were previously little known and has built up enormous experience in head and brain injuries, multiple fractures and amputations.

In the last five years, the Birmingham centre has treated 481 service personnel seriously injured in Afghanistan, according to the Ministry of Defence.

She did not come from Pakistan with any of her relatives but the Pakistani Consulate are proving support and her family may join her at a later date.

Yousufzai, a cheerful schoolgirl who had wanted to become a doctor before agreeing to her father's wishes that she strive to be a politician, has become a potent symbol of resistance against the Taiban's efforts to deprive girls of an education.

Pakistanis have held some protests and candlelight vigils but most government officials have refrained from publicly criticising the Taliban by name over the attack, in what critics say is a lack of resolve against extremism.

- Reuters

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