Pakistani girl shot by Taliban being taken to U.K.

Last Updated Oct 15, 2012 10:24 AM EDT

Updated at 10:24 a.m. ET

ISLAMABAD Pakistan airlifted a 14-year-old activist who was shot and seriously wounded by the Taliban to the United Kingdom for treatment Monday, a move that will give her access to the specialized medical care she needs to recover and also protect her from follow-up attacks threatened by the militants.

CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports from the Pakistani capital that Malala Yousufzai's doctors expect her to make steady if slow progress, according to a diplomat who had seen her en route to Britain. Malala's condition was reported as stable during the weekend, and doctors had reduced her sedation to see if they could determine how much damage has been done to her brain, Palmer reports.

The attack on Malala as she was returning home from school in Pakistan's northwest a week ago has horrified people both across the country and abroad. It has also sparked hope the government would respond by intensifying its fight against the Taliban and their allies.

Over 100 Taliban militants attacked a police station near the main northwest city of Peshawar late Sunday night, sparking a gunbattle that lasted several hours, police said. Six policemen were killed during the clash, including two who were beheaded.

Malala was targeted by the Taliban for promoting girls' education and criticizing the militant group. Two of Malala's classmates were also wounded in the attack and are receiving treatment in Pakistan.

The Taliban said they attacked Malala because she was promoting "Western thinking" and have threatened to target her again until she is killed.

Police told Palmer that that, although the attack happened on a relatively busy road, no witnesses have come forward. On a brighter note, Palmer reports, the school that Malala championed so passionately is full. All the girl students have come to school and told Palmer that they and their parents -- even though they've been frightened by the attack -- are refusing to be intimidated.

Malala was flown out of Pakistan on Monday morning in a specially equipped air ambulance provided by the United Arab Emirates, said the Pakistani military, which has been treating the young girl at one of its hospitals.

Video footage handed out by the military showed Malala being wheeled out of the hospital on a stretcher, covered in a white sheet and surrounded by uniformed army officers. She was placed in the back of an ambulance and driven to the airport, where she was put on a plane.

A panel of doctors recommended that Malala be shifted to a center in the United Kingdom that has the ability to provide "integrated" care to children who have sustained severe injuries, said a military statement.

"It was agreed by the panel of Pakistani doctors and international experts that Malala will require prolonged care to fully recover from the physical and psychological effects of trauma that she has received," the military said.

The plane stopped for several hours in the Emirati capital of Abu Dhabi on the way to the United Kingdom, said the Pakistani Ambassador to the UAE Jamil Ahmed Khan. The ambassador visited Malala during the stop and said she appeared to be in stable condition. Her parents were not on the plane with her, he said.

Khan told CBS News Malala appeared to be improving steadily. He said her doctors told him they believe she will make a slow recovery, but will recover, eventually. He added that her parents will join her in the U.K. at some point.

Khan told CBS News security measures were being taken to protect Malala because of the Taliban threat against her, but he would not go into specifics.

Malala will be treated at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham in central England, a center which has specialized in the treatment of troops wounded in Afghanistan, said British Prime Minister David Cameron's office.

"The UK stands shoulder to shoulder with Pakistan in its fight against terrorism," said British Foreign Secretary William Hague in a statement sent to reporters. "Malala's bravery in standing up for the right of all young girls in Pakistan to an education is an example to us all."

Pakistani doctors at a military hospital earlier removed a bullet from Malala's body that entered her head and headed toward her spine. The military has described her recovery as satisfactory and said she was able to move her legs and hands several days ago when her sedatives were reduced. They have not said whether she suffered any brain damage or other permanent damage.

On Monday, the military said damaged bones in Malala's skull will need to be repaired or replaced, and she will need "intensive neuro rehabilitation." The decision to send the girl abroad was taken in consultation with her family, and the Pakistani government will pay for her treatment.

Pakistanis have held rallies for Malala throughout the country, but most have only numbered a few hundred people. The largest show of support by far occurred Sunday when tens of thousands of people held a demonstration in the southern party city of Karachi organized by the most powerful political party in the city, the Muttahida Quami Movement.

Comments

CBSN Live

pop-out
Live Video

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.