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Arrests made in shooting of Pakistani schoolgirl Malala

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Story highlights

  • Six arrests are made in the shooting of Malala Yousufzai
  • Police identify the main suspect as Atta Ullah Khan; his suspected role is unclear
  • Malala is in an English hospital, where doctors say she is making progress

Six men have been arrested in connection with the shooting of Malala Yousufzai, the teenage activist who spoke out against the Taliban, but the main suspect remained at large, Pakistani police said Wednesday.

Police identified Atta Ullah Khan, a 23-year-old man from the Swat district where Malala was attacked, as the primary suspect. Police said they were searching for Khan, who was studying for a master's degree in chemistry.

The Swat Valley in northwestern Pakistan is a Taliban redoubt.

In addition to arresting six men -- all of them from Swat -- police have detained Khan's mother, brother and fiancee. The suspect's relatives were not accused of involvement but are being questioned, a senior police official told CNN.

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The official did not say what role Khan may have played.

Khan had studied for a Bachelor of Science degree in physics at Jahanzeb College in Swat.

Alam Zeb, the school's principal, said Khan had given school officials three or four dates of birth. Zeb condemned the attack and said he was surprised to hear that a former student may have been involved.

The 15-year-old girl, who has become a symbol of courage after being shot in the head by the Taliban for demanding education for girls, is being treated at a hospital in Birmingham, England.

On Wednesday, she remained in stable condition and "continues to make good progress," the hospital's website said. She is expected to need "a significant period of rest and recuperation" before undergoing reconstructive surgery, Dr. Dave Rosser, medical director of University Hospitals Birmingham, said last week.

Malala was fighting an infection, but was able to move her extremities and has stood with help from nurses, the hospital said.

Malala's family remains in Pakistan.

Malala can't speak because a tube has been inserted into her trachea to protect her airway, which was swollen after her gunshot injury, but she was writing coherent sentences, Rosser said.

The Pakistani Taliban have claimed responsibility for the October 9 shooting and vowed to kill Malala, if she recovers.

      Malala's battle

    • A copy of the memoirs of Pakistani child activist Malala Yousafzai is pictured in a bookstore in Islamabad on October 8, 2013. Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai tells of the moment she was shot by the Taliban for campaigning for girls' education in her new autobiography out on October 8, amid speculation that she may be about to become the youngest ever winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Co-written with British journalist Christina Lamb, 'I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban' tells of the 16-year-old's terror as two gunmen boarded her schoolbus on October 9, 2012 and shot her in the head.

      The teen blogger simply wanted an education. But she became a symbol of defiance against militants, empowering young women worldwide.
    • Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old Pakistani advocate for girls education who was shot in the head by the Taliban, sits before she speaks at the United Nations (UN) Youth Assembly on July 12, 2013 in New York City.

      More than three million girls are out of school in Pakistan, while spending on education has decreased to 2.3 percent of GDP in 2010.
    • Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old Pakistani advocate for girls education who was shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012, officially opens The Library of Birmingham in Birmingham, central England, on September 3, 2013.

      The Pakistani Taliban issues a new death threat against Malala, who turns the other cheek.
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      Hundreds of messages from around the world were received by CNN for Malala Yousufzai, the Pakistani teen activist attacked by the Taliban.
    • Pakistani NGOs activists carry placards as they shout slogans at an event on International Human Rights Day in Lahore on December 10, 2012.

      Pakistan has a new heroine and a new cause -- a girl's right to education. Now the government vows to get every child into school by end 2015.