A 14-year-old Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban has a chance of making a “decent recovery”, said a doctor at the British hospital where she was airlifted Monday.
Malala Yousafzai was attacked on her school bus in the former Taliban stronghold of the Swat valley last Tuesday as a punishment for campaigning for the right to an education.
She was flown into Birmingham Airport in central England on Monday before being taken to the nearby Queen Elizabeth Hospital for specialist treatment.
Hospital Medical Director David Rosser said British colleagues working in Pakistan believed she had “a chance of making a good recovery”.
“Clearly it would be inappropriate on every level, not least for her, to put her through all of this if there was no hope of decent recovery,” he told reporters.
The hospital is a highly specialised facility where British soldiers seriously wounded in Afghanistan are treated.
Doctors in Pakistan have said Malala needs treatment for a damaged skull and “intensive neuro-rehabilitation”.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the “barbaric” attack on Malala had “shocked Pakistan and the world”.
“Malala will now receive specialist medical care in an NHS (National Health Service) hospital,” he said.
“The public revulsion and condemnation of this cowardly attack shows that the people of Pakistan will not be beaten by terrorists.”
Security concerns meant Malala’s departure after daybreak from Islamabad Airport — in an air ambulance provided by the United Arab Emirates — was not announced until the plane was airborne.
Malala, who had been treated in a Pakistani military hospital, was accompanied on the plane by an intensive care specialist.
Asked if Malala will be guarded at the Birmingham hospital, Prime Minister David Cameron’s spokeswoman said: “You wouldn’t expect me to talk about security matters in detail but certainly security has been taken into account.”
Rosser warned that Malala faces a long road to recovery.
“Our experience with battle casualties, and you can deal with her as a battle casualty from a physiological point of view, is that patients need lots of different specialities.”
The shooting has been denounced worldwide and by Pakistan, which has said it will do everything possible to ensure Malala recovers and will meet all the costs of her treatment.
The cold-blooded murder attempt has sickened Pakistan, where Malala came to prominence with a blog for the BBC highlighting atrocities under the hardline Islamist Taliban, who terrorised the Swat valley from 2007 until an army offensive in 2009.
Activists say the shooting should be a wake-up call to those who advocate appeasement with the Taliban, but analysts suspect there will be no significant change in a country that has sponsored radical Islam for decades.
On Sunday, around 10,000 people gathered in Karachi for a rally in support of Malala, organised by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement political party.
But right-wing and conservative religious leaders have refrained from publicly denouncing the Taliban. They have warned the government against using the attack on Malala as a pretext for an offensive in the militant bastion of North Waziristan.
The United States has long called on Pakistan to wage an operation in the district, considered the leadership base of the Haqqani network — blamed for some of the deadliest attacks in Afghanistan — as well as a Taliban stronghold.
Malala was first airlifted from Swat to a military hospital in the northwestern city of Peshawar, then to the country’s top military hospital in Rawalpindi, where doctors on Sunday took her off a ventilator for a “successful” short trial.
The army said a panel of Pakistani doctors and international experts agreed Malala needed “prolonged care to fully recover from the physical and psychological effects of trauma that she has received”.
Schools and mosques across Pakistan have held special prayers for Malala.
Pakistan has offered more than $100,000 for the capture of her attackers.
A senior police official told AFP that investigators have questioned dozens of suspects, but that the hunt for the main culprits was continuing.
Ahmad Shah, police station chief in the town of Mingora where Malala was shot, has said nearly 200 people were detained including the bus driver and a school watchman, but most have been released. – By by Andrew Yates