KHAR, Pakistan (AP) — One of the two Taliban militants suspected of attacking a teenage girl activist was detained by the Pakistani military in 2009 but subsequently released, intelligence officials said Thursday.
Malala Yousufzai, 14, was shot and critically wounded on Oct. 9 as she headed home from school in the northwest Swat Valley. The Taliban said they targeted Malala, a fierce advocate for girls’ education, because she promoted "Western thinking" and was critical of the militant group.
The military detained Attaullah during the army’s 2009 offensive in Swat because of suspected ties with the Pakistani Taliban, which had established effective control over the valley at the time, said two intelligence officials. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
The military successfully pushed most of the militants out of Swat, but Attaullah was released because of a lack of evidence linking him to specific attacks, said the officials. It’s unclear how long he was held.
The shooting of Malala outraged people around the world and stepped up pressure on the Pakistani government to intensify its fight against the Taliban and their allies.
Malala was airlifted to England earlier this week for specialized treatment and to protect her from follow-on attacks by the Taliban, who have threatened to target her again until she is killed.
A Pakistani official said Wednesday that Malala was improving and has been moving her limbs. The official, who said he was briefed by Malala’s doctors in England, spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t cleared to talk on the record about the case.
Associated Press writers Munir Ahmed in Islamabad, Riaz Khan in Peshawar, Pakistan, and Raphael Satter in London contributed to this report.