The Freeland File
Aerospace & Defense
Global Market Data
Lucy P. Marcus
David Cay Johnston
The Great Debate
Macro & Markets
Lipper Awards 2012
Personal Finance Video
Our best photos from the last 24 hours. Slideshow
Images of September
Analysis: Ryan was solid, but feisty Biden won the debate
A diamond bigger than Earth?
11 Oct 2012
Biden comes out swinging at debate, clashes with Ryan
European Union wins Nobel Peace Prize
Gunmen kill Yemeni who worked at U.S. embassy in Yemen
11 Oct 2012
Democrats frustrated by Obama’s ”Big Bird” campaign turn
Romney to draw contrast with Obama on foreign policy
Biden and Ryan in high-stakes election debate
Taliban's "Radio Mullah" sent hit squad after Pakistani schoolgirl
Pakistani schoolgirl shot by Taliban moved to army HQ hospital
Thu, Oct 11 2012
Pakistani doctors remove bullet from girl shot by Taliban
Wed, Oct 10 2012
Pakistani girl shot by Taliban defied threats for years
Wed, Oct 10 2012
Taliban shoot Pakistani schoolgirl campaigning for peace
Tue, Oct 9 2012
Pakistan halts drone protest led by ex-cricketer Imran Khan
Sun, Oct 7 2012
Analysis & Opinion
Can Romney put foreign policy in play?
“Living Under Drones” – the anti-drone campaign can do damage too
1 of 4. A woman holds a picture of Malala Yousufzai with a candle as she participates in a rally to condemn the attack on Yousufzai, in Karachi October 11, 2012.
Credit: Reuters/Athar Hussain
By Jibran Ahmad
PESHAWAR, Pakistan |
Fri Oct 12, 2012 6:52am EDT
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - One of the Taliban's most feared commanders, Maulana Fazlullah, carefully briefed two killers from his special hit squad on their next target.
The gunmen weren't going after any army officer, politician or Western diplomat. Their target was a 14-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl who had angered the Taliban by speaking out for "Western"-style girls' education.
Tuesday's shooting of Malala Yousufzai was the culmination of years of campaigning that had pitted the fearless, smiling young girl against one of Pakistan's most ruthless Taliban commanders.
Their story began in 2009, when Fazlullah, known as Radio Mullah for his fiery radio broadcasts, took over Swat Valley, and ordered the closure of girls' schools, including Yousufzai's.
Outraged, the then-11-year-old kept a blog for the BBC under a pen name and later launched a campaign for girls' education. It won her Pakistan's highest civilian honor and death threats from the Taliban.
Yousufzai was not blind to the dangers. In her hometown of Mingora, Fazlullah's Taliban fighters dumped bodies near where her family lived.
"I heard my father talking about another three bodies lying at Green Chowk," she wrote in her diary, referring to a nearby roundabout.
A military offensive pushed Fazlullah out of Swat in 2009, but his men simply melted away across the border to Afghanistan. Earlier this year, they kidnapped and beheaded 17 Pakistani soldiers in one of several cross border raids.
Yousufzai continued speaking out despite the danger. As her fame grew, Fazlullah tried everything he could to silence her. The Taliban published death threats in the newspapers and slipped them under her door. But she ignored them.
The Taliban say that's why they sent assassins, despite a tribal code forbidding the killing of women.
"We had no intentions to kill her but were forced when she would not stop (speaking against us)," said Sirajuddin Ahmad, a spokesman of Swat Taliban now based in Afghanistan's Kunar province.
He said the Taliban held a meeting a few months ago at which they unanimously agreed to kill her. The task was then given to military commanders to carry out.
The militia has a force of around 100 men specialized in targeted killing, fighters said. They chose two men, aged between 20-30, who were locals from Swat Valley.
The gunmen had proved their worth in previous assassinations, killing an opposition politician and attacking a leading hotelier for "obscenity" in promoting tourism.
Their trademark is to kill by shots to the head.
Such hits, although dangerous, are also a badge of honor among the Taliban. The fighters who carry them out often receive personal calls of congratulations from senior leaders and may also get cash or guns.
Now it was Yousufzai's turn.
"Before the attack, the two fighters personally collected information about Malala's route to school, timing, the vehicle she used and her security," Ahmad said.
They decided to shoot her near a military checkpoint to make the point they could strike anywhere, he said.
On Tuesday, the two men stopped the bus she was riding home in. They asked for Yousufzai by name. Although the frightened girls said she wasn't there, the men fired at her and also hit two other girls in the van. One of them remains in critical condition.
Shot in the head and the neck, Yousufzai still lies unconscious in hospital, unaware that world leaders from U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to U.S. President Barack Obama have pledged support. Schoolchildren in Swat prayed for her recovery.
"The American people are shocked by this deplorable shooting of a girl who was targeted because she dared to attend school," a statement from the White House said.
On Wednesday, the singer Madonna dedicated a song to Yousufzai during a L.A. concert. In a gesture that bemused many Pakistanis, she performed a striptease that revealed Yousufzai's first name, Malala, written across her back.
Her would-be killers said they had no idea their attack would propel their victim, already a national hero, into a global icon.
"Actually the media gave it so much importance and now even Ban Ki-moon used dirty language against us," Ahmad said. The international community stayed silent when the Pakistani security forces killed women during a crackdown, he complained.
Now that they had failed to kill Yousufzai, they would target her father, Ahmad said.
Ziauddin Yousufzai, the headmaster of a girls' school, is on their hit list for speaking against them, his activities to promote peace in the region and for encouraging his daughter.
"We have a clear-cut stance. Anyone who takes side with the government against us will have to die at our hands," Ahmad warned. "You will see. Other important people will soon become victims."
(Writing by Katharine Houreld)
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Back to top
New York Legal
Support & Contact
Connect with Reuters
Our Flagship financial information platform incorporating Reuters Insider
An ultra-low latency infrastructure for electronic trading and data distribution
A connected approach to governance, risk and compliance
Our next generation legal research platform
Our global tax workstation
About Thomson Reuters
Thomson Reuters is the world's largest international multimedia news agency, providing investing news, world news, business news, technology news, headline news, small business news, news alerts, personal finance, stock market, and mutual funds information available on Reuters.com, video, mobile, and interactive television platforms. Thomson Reuters journalists are subject to an Editorial Handbook which requires fair presentation and disclosure of relevant interests.
NYSE and AMEX quotes delayed by at least 20 minutes. Nasdaq delayed by at least 15 minutes. For a complete list of exchanges and delays, please click here.