Malala Yousufzai: Pakistan official says 2 arrested over teen's shooting; Family gets "ray of hope"

Malala Yousufzai, 14, was shot by the Taliban on a school bus for advocating for girls' education.
CBS News

(CBS News) ISLAMABAD - A senior Pakistani intelligence official told CBS News that two people were in custody Friday for suspected links to the shooting of Malala Yousufzai, the 14-year-old girl whose brave stand against the Taliban has left her in critical condition in a military hospital.

One of the two men arrested was described as an important suspect, but the official would not say whether he was believed to have been the gunman who singled Malala out as she rode home from school earlier this week and shot her twice at close range.

CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports that Malala, who campaigned for years for girls' rights to an education in spite of threats from the Islamic extremist group, remained unconscious and on ventilator Friday. Her condition was described as stable but still critical.

A close friend of family, meanwhile, told CBS News that doctors had given Malala's family a "ray of hope" after seeing MRI scans that showed a bullet entered her skull but did not appear to have caused significant damage to vital parts of the brain.

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The woman, who spoke Thursday night with another family friend who is with Malala at the military hospital in Rawalpindi, said the bullet then passed down into the teenager's chest cavity and became lodged near her spine. That bullet was removed by doctors in Peshawar, in Pakistan's north, before Malala was transported Thursday to the more sophisticated facility in Rawalpindi, near the capital, Islamabad.

Doctors in Rawalpindi had removed a piece of Malala's skull to relive pressure from swelling, Palmer reported.

The neurosurgeon who operated on Malala in Peshawar said Thursday that there had been damage to her brain. The level of damage sustained in the shooting - and Malala's prospects for recovery - were still unclear on Friday. The next day or so were said to be critical.

The family friend told CBS News that a second girl seriously wounded by the gunman was still in intensive care in Peshawar, but doctors had said she appeared to be out of immediate danger.

Malala's story has galvanized an outpouring of support in Pakistan and around the country. Prayers have been held in mosques and schools across Pakistan, and there have been some small demonstrations against the shooting.

The Taliban quickly claimed responsibility for the attack in Pakistan's picturesque northwestern Swat Valley, saying Malala was guilty of "obscenity" for her demands that girls have equal access to school.

Taliban militants once ruled Swat, but were forced out by the Pakistani army in a 2009 offensive.