Pakistan seeks 3 in Malala shooting, minister says

Minister: Malala is 'pride of Pakistan'

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Minister: Malala is 'pride of Pakistan' 02:36

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"

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."

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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.

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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.

      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.
    • Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai was able to stand up and communicate on Friday, October 19.

      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.