Minister: Malala is 'pride of Pakistan'
02:36 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Pakistan's interior minister says teen activist's assailants were "two young boys"

"Obviously, they had done their homework," Malik says

Malala Yousufzai is recovering from a head wound in a British hospital

Malik calls her "the pride of Pakistan"

London CNN  — 

Pakistani police are searching for two youths suspected of shooting a teenage activist for girls’ education and the man they believe drove them to the scene, the country’s interior minister said Sunday.

“The guys who actually made this assassination attempt, they were two young boys,” Rehman Malik said. But he said they were brought to Malala Yousufzai’s hometown of Swat by Atta Ullah Khan, a 23-year-old man identified by police as their primary suspect.

Malik said one of the youths distracted the driver of the car that carried Malala, while the other asked a bystander to identify her.

“Obviously they had done their homework,” Malik told CNN in London. “They had seen the vehicle of Malala going up and down, and accordingly they acted on that.”

Messages for Malala

Police said last week that they had arrested six men in connection with the shooting, but were still searching for Khan, who was studying for a master’s degree in chemistry.

Malik defended the investigation into the shooting, telling CNN, “Within 24 hours we were in a position to identify almost everybody.” And he rejected calls from some in Pakistan to bring the country’s military to bear on the attackers, saying “A military solution is not the solution.”

The 15-year-old Malala initially gained international attention in 2009, writing a blog about her life as the Taliban gained a foothold in her home region, in northwest Pakistan near the border with Afghanistan. Taliban leaders claimed responsibility for the shooting, but they don’t appear to have anticipated the level of condemnation it would provoke.

Read: College named for Malala

Thousands of people in Pakistan and elsewhere have attended rallies and vigils honoring her courage and praying for her recovery. Malik called her “the pride of Pakistan” and said “we would love her to come back.”

He said police had offered to protect Malala three times before the incident, but her father had refused. He said her entire family would be under guard when they return to Pakistan after her treatment, for which the government will pay.

He said that will require two cordons of police – female officers to surround Malala, with male officers surrounding the female contingent. But he added, “I assure to the world community that when she goes back, we do have the ability to protect her.”

Malik is scheduled to visit Malala on Monday in her hospital in Birmingham, England, where she is recovering from her head wound. He’ll also meet with the foreign ministers of Britain and the United Arab Emirates, which provided the air ambulance that flew Malala to the United Kingdom.

Read: Malala reunited with her family

Malala was shot at point-blank range while on her way home from school on October 9. She was flown to Britain six days later. Her father, Ziauddin Yousufzai, visited her in Birmingham last week and described her survival as a “miracle for us.”

Malik said she and her parents can stay in the UK as long as needed, “until she is fully rehabilitated.” He said she had asked for her school books so she can study for exams, which he said will be given to her when she returns.

CNN’s Alex Felton contributed to this report.