Students recite verses from the Quran as they pray for Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head in a Taliban assassination attempt, at her school in Mingora, the main town of Swat Valley on Friday
PESHAWAR, Pakistan – Three suspects in the shooting of 14-year old Pakistani peace campaigner Malala Yousafzai have been arrested, police in Swat Valley claimed Friday.
Police said the suspects, aged between 17 and 22, had claimed the person who organized the attack Tuesday — in which two other young girls were shot and injured — was a man called Attaullah.
“During raids in Swat on Thursday night, we captured three culprits involved in attack on Malala,” Swat police chief Gul Afzal Afridi told NBC News by phone.
“During initial interrogation, they revealed that Attaullah was mastermind of the attack and he is still at large,” he added.
Afridi said that the attackers were from the Sangota area of Swat. Police were conducting other raids in an attempt to find Attaullah.
The Swat-based Pakistani Taiban refused to confirm if any of their members have been arrested, but claimed they had “dozens” of trained gunmen in the area.
Malala, who was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize in 2011 for articles she wrote under a pseudonym for U.K. broadcaster the BBC and won the National Peace Prize in Pakistan, was in a “satisfactory” condition at a military hospital, a spokesman said Friday. She started writing for the BBC when she was just 11.
Maj. Gen. Asim Saleem Bajwa said she was being kept unconscious and on a ventilator, and doctors would decide when to take her off.
“Her blood pressure is normal. Heartbeat is normal, and thanks to God, her condition is satisfactory,” Bajwa said.
Bajwa said the bullet entered her head and went into her neck toward her spine, but it was too soon to say whether she had any significant head injury.
Three suspects in the shooting of 14-year old Pakistani peace campaigner Malala Yousafzai have been arrested.
Reuters reported Friday that the attack was ordered by one of the Taliban’s most feared commanders, Maulana Fazlullah.
“We had no intentions to kill her but were forced when she would not stop (speaking against us),” said Sirajuddin Ahmad, a spokesman of Swat Taliban now based in Afghanistan’s Kunar province.
He said the Taliban held a meeting a few months ago at which they unanimously agreed to kill her. The task was then given to military commanders to carry out.
The shooting sparked widespread condemnation and there has been an outpouring of praise for her bravery from Pakistani and international leaders.
The school she attended in Mingora, owned and operated by her father, reopened Friday. The atmosphere was grim as children and teachers tried to come to terms with what happened to their star pupil.
“We have decided to open the school after two days to overcome the fear among our students that gripped them due to the attack. The number of students is low today. We have not resumed regular teaching activity, but held an assembly to pray for Malala and the other two injured girls,” said one of the teachers, Zafar Ali Khan.
Police had been deployed around the school, but even so, many students stayed away.
“Although we have gathered here for to pray for Malala, this shows we will keep her mission going,” Ayesha Khan, a ninth-grade student. “Many of the students haven’t come due to fear, but I believe this fear will subside ultimately.”
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
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