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Pakistan official: Boys involved in Malala attack

By Ashley Fantz, CNN
updated 9:47 AM EDT, Tue October 30, 2012
  • Boys suspected in attack on Malala Yousufzai, Pakistan's interior minister says
  • Official: One boy distracted school van driver, while another sought out Malala
  • Police continue to search for 23-year-old man allegedly involved in attack

(CNN) -- Pakistani police say they suspect two boys of nearly killing a Pakistani teenage girl internationally famous for campaigning for girls' education.

On October 9, Malala Yousufzai was on her school van in the Taliban-held Swat Valley when armed thugs stopped the vehicle and jumped on board. They demanded that other girls riding identify 15-year-old Malala. Then they shot two girls and fired at Malala, striking her in the head and neck.

Profile: Global symbol, but still just a kid

At the time, Malala was well-known in Pakistan, and her profile was growing internationally. She had been campaigning since she was 11, encouraging her fellow Pakistanis to stand up to the Taliban who were trying to push girls from classrooms.

Pakistani authorities believe that one of the boys distracted the van driver, while the other asked someone to point out Malala, Pakistan's interior minister told CNN.

Pakistani Christians attend a prayer service for the recovery of teen activist Malala Yousufzai in Lahore on Sunday, November 11, 2012. Pakistan celebrated Malala Day on Saturday as part of a global day of support for the teenager shot by the Taliban. Pakistani Christians attend a prayer service for the recovery of teen activist Malala Yousufzai in Lahore on Sunday, November 11, 2012. Pakistan celebrated Malala Day on Saturday as part of a global day of support for the teenager shot by the Taliban.
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"Obviously they had done their homework," Rehman Malik said. "They had seen the vehicle of Malala going up and down, and accordingly they acted on that."

Read more: In rebuke to Taliban, Pakistan college named for Malala

On Monday, police told CNN they were searching for two boys and a man they say drove the youths to the van.

Malik identified the adult suspect as Attah Ullah Khan, 23, but he did not name the boys.

Police said last week that they had arrested six men in connection with the shooting but were searching for Khan.

Khan is a masters' chemistry student, police said.

A 'miracle for us'

Malala is recovering in Great Britain, where a team of international doctors are caring for her. She's made some progress, but her caregivers have said she has a long, hard road ahead.

Her father, Ziauddin Yousufzai, has described her survival as a "miracle for us."

Malik, the Pakistani interior minister, visited Malala's hospital in Birmingham, England, on Monday. He later met with foreign ministers from Britain and the United Arab Emirates. The UAE provided the air ambulance that flew Malala from Pakistan, where she was treated in the initial days after the attack, to the United Kingdom.

"The people of the UAE were appalled by what happened to Malala, which is why we helped to bring her for medical care in the UK," Emirati Foreign Minister Abdullah Bin Zayed said, adding the emirates believe girls should be educated. Malala is in "our prayers," he said, according to a release from British Foreign Secretary William Hague.

Hague said he personally thanked the team of doctors helping Malala.

Hague said officials are "determined to do all we can to champion education for women and girls in Pakistan."

In his interview with CNN, Malik was asked about the progress of the investigation.

He replied by saying, "Within 24 hours we were in a position to identify almost everybody."

He said Pakistan should not involve the military in finding Malala's attackers.

"A military solution is not the solution," he said.

'Pride of Pakistan'

When Malala was 11, she worked with the BBC and published a blog in 2009 detailing her struggles to attend school in Swat.

In January of that year, the Taliban issued an edict ordering that no school should educate girls.

iReport: Messages for Malala

As Malala breathed on a ventilator and the world grew increasingly outraged about her shooting, thousands in Pakistan rallied. Many were aghast that the Taliban would attack a teenage girl.

The Taliban issued a statement online saying that if Malala lived, they'd come after her again.

In his interview with CNN, Malik called the teenager "the pride of Pakistan."

He said that the country "would love her to come back."

If Malala were to return to Pakistan, guards would protect her family, with a female contingent surrounding Malala.

The government would pay to provide the service, he said.

Malik told CNN that he knew Malala is doing well in the hospital because she has asked for her schoolbooks so she can study.

He said that if she comes back to Pakistan, they'll find her old books and give them to her.

CNN's Matthew Chance contributed to this report.

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