ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan sent a 14-year-old activist who was shot and seriously wounded by the Taliban to the United Kingdom for treatment Monday, saying she would require prolonged care to fully recover from the physical and psychological effects of the attack.
The shooting of Malala Yousufzai and two of her classmates as they were returning home from school in Pakistan's northwest on Oct. 9 has horrified people inside and outside the country. Tens of thousands rallied in Pakistan's largest city on Sunday to support her.
She was shot by the Taliban for promoting girls' education and criticizing the militant group.
Malala flew out of Pakistan on Monday morning in a specially equipped air ambulance provided by the United Arab Emirates, said the Pakistani military, which has been treating the young girl at one of its hospitals.
A panel of doctors decided to send Malala to a center in the United Kingdom "which has the capability to provide integrated care to children who have sustained severe injury," said the military in a statement sent to reporters.
Malala, who was shot in the head, will need to repair damaged bones in her skull and will require intensive "neuro rehabilitation," said the military. The decision to send the girl abroad was taken in consultation with her family, and the Pakistani government will pay for her treatment.
Pakistani military doctors earlier removed a bullet from Malala's body and were able to stabilize her condition.
The rally in the southern port city of Karachi on Sunday was the largest show of support yet for the girl. Some Pakistanis have expressed hope that the government would respond to the attack against her by intensifying its fight against the Taliban and their allies.
But protests against the shooting have been relatively small until now, usually attracting no more than a few hundred people. That response pales in comparison to the tens of thousands of people who held violent protests in Pakistan last month against a film produced in the United States that denigrated Islam's Prophet Muhammad.
Demonstrations in support of Malala — and against rampant militant violence in the country in general — have also been fairly small compared to those focused on issues such as U.S. drone attacks and the NATO supply route to Afghanistan that runs through Pakistan.
Right-wing Islamic parties and organizations in Pakistan that regularly pull thousands of supporters into the streets to protest against the U.S. have less of an incentive to speak out against the Taliban. They share a desire to impose Islamic law in the country — even if they may disagree over the Taliban's violent tactics.