The top suspect in the cold-blooded shooting of schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai has been identified today as a 23-year-old science student living in a Taliban-infested district of Pakistan.
Atta Ullah Khan, who is studying for a master’s degree in chemistry, is being sought as the possible mastermind of the Oct. 9th attack on the 15-year-old student activist who was heavily involved criticizing the Taliban and promoting education for girls.
The suspect was named by Pakistani police, who today also announced the arrest of six men believed to have helped launch the attack. It is not clear whether Ullah was the alleged shooter himself or the brains behind the operation.
Ullah’s fiancée, mother, and brother were also taken into custody, although they were not believed to have participated in the attempted killing, according to CNN.
Yousufzai remains in critical but stable condition at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England, where she was flown earlier this week for treatment following the shooting in Pakistan’s Swat Valley.
She is said to be communicating with her hands and head movements, although she cannot speak because of a tube inserted down her swollen throat to help her breathe more easily. She is also using a pen and notepad to write, hospital officials confirmed.
The hospital remains under extremely heavy security following threats by the Taliban to finish off Yousufzai if she recovers. Doctors say her progress has been steady and the prognosis is good.
The plucky schoolgirl has become a worldwide symbol for the struggle against terrorism and oppression. Her shooting has put pressure on Pakistan to beef up its Taliban-fighting forces.
The Taliban has had Yousufzai on a hit list for the past eight months for her criticism of the terrorist group and tireless promotion of “Western’’ ideas, such as stronger educational programs for girls.
She has also publicly come out in favor of secular rule in Swat Valley, which is in the northwestern region of Pakistan.
Earlier this year, the government offered the girl round-the-clock protection. But her family refused it saying the presence of bodyguards would not allow her to lead a normal life.
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