MINGORA, Pakistan – Pakistani police have arrested a number of suspects in the case of a 14-year-old girl shot and wounded by the Taliban for promoting education for girls and criticizing the fundamentalist Islamic movement, officials said Friday.
The shooting of Malala Yousufzai along with two classmates while they were on their way home from school Tuesday horrified people in Pakistan and internationally. It has been followed by an outpouring of support for a girl who earned the enmity of the Taliban for publicizing their acts and speaking about the importance of education for girls.
The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the shooting, saying that the girl was promoting Western thinking. Late on Thursday, a spokesman for one of the group’s branches in the country’s north said it decided two months ago to kill Yousufzai in a carefully planned attack after her family ignored repeated warnings.
Police have been questioning people in the town of Mingora, in the Swat Valley, where the shooting took place.
Mingora police chief Afzal Khan Afridi said arrests had been made, but he declined to give any details about the number of people detained or what role they’re suspected of having in the shooting. He said he did not want to endanger the ongoing investigation.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the two gunmen who staged the attack were not among those arrested, but he said investigators had identified the masterminds of the shooting and efforts were under way to capture all those involved.
The Taliban spokesman, Sirajuddin Ahmad, said Yousufzai’s family had been warned three times – the most recent warning coming last week – before the decision was made to kill her.
Ahmad said local Taliban leader Maulana Fazlullah and his deputies selected three attackers, including two trained sharpshooters, who carefully studied the girl’s route home from school.