Malala Yousafzai suspects arrested, Pakistan army says

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Media caption,

Malala was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen in October 2012

Militants suspected of shooting activist Malala Yousafzai have been arrested, Pakistan's army says.

The teenager was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen in October 2012 because of her campaign for girls' education.

They boarded her school bus in Pakistan's north-western Swat valley and opened fire, in an assault that also wounded two of her school friends.

She has since recovered from the attack, which shocked the world and catapulted her to international fame.

She was named one of Time magazine's most influential people in 2013, was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and has just released an autobiography.

Hit list found

"The group involved in the attack on Malala Yousafzai has been arrested," army spokesman Gen Asim Bajwa told a news conference on Friday.

He said 10 members of a faction called "Shura", which the army says is part of the Pakistani Taliban (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP), had been arrested in a joint operation with Pakistan's army, police and intelligence services.

The men are being interrogated and will face an anti-terrorism court soon, he said.

The BBC's M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad notes that the army statement made no mention of Ataullah Khan, a 23-year-old militant who had previously been accused of shooting Malala.

Pakistan's interior minister at the time of the attack, Rehman Malik, had identified the militant as a chief suspect, as had a formal report filed by the police in Malala's hometown of Mingora.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Malala was attacked on her way home from school in her home town of Mingora

Gen Bajwa said the arrested men had been working under the instructions of Mullah Fazlullah, the chief of the Pakistani Taliban.

He said the army had found a list of 22 prominent activists from the Swat area, whom the group was planning to attack after Malala.

Malala Yousafzai, who was 15 when she was shot, had already gained prominence for demanding rights to education for girls in Pakistan.

She came to public attention in 2009 by writing a diary for BBC Urdu about life under Taliban militants who had taken control of the valley.

She was awarded the EU's prestigious Sakharov human rights prize last year.

She is now based in Birmingham in the UK, after she was flown there for treatment in the aftermath of the attack.

She is unable to return to Pakistan because of Taliban death threats against her and her family.