By MARTIN BENEDYK and SEBASTIAN ABBOT, Associated Press
BIRMINGHAM, England (AP) — A teenage Pakistani activist shot in the head by the Taliban arrived in Britain on Monday to receive specialized medical care and protection from follow-up attacks threatened by the militants.
The attack on 14-year-old Malala Yousufzai as she was returning home from school in Pakistan's northwest a week ago has horrified people across the South Asian country and abroad. It has also sparked hope that the Pakistani government would respond by intensifying its fight against the Taliban and their allies.
Malala was targeted by the Taliban for promoting girls' education and criticizing the militant group's behavior when they took over the scenic Swat Valley where she lived. Two of her classmates were also wounded in the attack and are receiving treatment in Pakistan.
The Taliban have threatened to target Malala again until she is killed because she promotes "Western thinking."
Malala, who had been receiving treatment at a Pakistani military hospital, arrived at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham in central England on Monday afternoon. Doctors believed Malala "has a chance of making a good recovery," said Dave Rosser, the hospital's medical director.
The hospital, which is also home to the Royal Center for Defense Medicine, has extensive experience handling British soldiers injured in battle and advanced equipment that would help Malala's treatment, Rosser said. He said he had not seen Malala, and declined to provide details of her condition, citing respect for her privacy.
The Royal Center is the primary receiving unit for military casualties returning from overseas, and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital is designated as one of the country's 16 major trauma centers which specialize in treating severe gunshot wounds, major head injuries and road accident victims.
Pakistan's military had said a panel of doctors recommended that Malala be shifted to a center in the United Kingdom that has the ability to provide "integrated" care to children who have sustained severe injuries.
"It was agreed by the panel of Pakistani doctors and international experts that Malala will require prolonged care to fully recover from the physical and psychological effects of trauma that she has received," the military said in a statement.
Malala was flown out of Pakistan on Monday morning in a specially equipped air ambulance provided by the United Arab Emirates, the Pakistani military said.
Video footage handed out by the military showed Malala being wheeled out of the hospital on a stretcher, covered in a white sheet and surrounded by uniformed army officers. She was placed in the back of an ambulance and driven to the airport, where she was put on a plane.
The plane stopped for several hours in the Emirati capital of Abu Dhabi on the way to the United Kingdom, said Pakistani Ambassador to the UAE Jamil Ahmed Khan. The ambassador visited Malala during the stop and said she appeared to be in stable condition. Her parents were not on the plane with her, he said.
Pakistani doctors at a military hospital earlier removed a bullet from Malala's body that entered her head and headed toward her spine.
The military has described her recovery as satisfactory and said she was able to move her legs and hands several days ago when her sedatives were reduced. It has not said whether she suffered any brain damage or other permanent damage.