London: Pakistani police are on the look out for two youths suspected of shooting 15-year-old education activist Malala Yousufzai, and the prime suspect who drove them to the scene, Interior Minister Rehman Malik has said.
Malala, who earned international fame for raising voice against Taliban oppression and for advocating girls' right to education in Swat valley, was shot in the neck and head by the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on October 9. She was flown to Britain six days later for specialized treatment.
"The guys who actually made this assassination attempt, they were two young boys," the CNN quoted Malik, as saying. He added that it was 23-year-old Attaullah Khan, a man identified by police as their primary suspect, who brought the two boys to Malala's hometown.
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.
"Within 24 hours we were in a position to identify almost everybody," Malik claimed. He had also 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".
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 it will require two cordons of police-female officers to surround Malala, with male officers surrounding the female contingent.
"I assure to the world community that when she goes back, we do have the ability to protect her," Malik said.
He said Malala and her parents could stay in the UK as long as needed, "until she is fully rehabilitated."