Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Malala Yousafzai: police question hospital 'well-wishers'

Pair stopped at Birmingham trauma centre treating Pakistani girl who Taliban shot after she campaigned for education rights


Police officers patrol outside the emergency entrance of Queen Elizabeth hospital, in Birmingham. Photograph: Chris Helgren/REUTERS

Two people have been questioned by police after they turned up at a hospital wanting to see Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl who the Taliban shot in the head because she campaigned for the right to be educated, police said.

Malala, 14, arrived at Queen Elizabeth hospital, in Birmingham, on Monday after travelling on a special air ambulance from Pakistan.

West Midlands police described the visitors who turned up at the hospital as "well-wishers". A spokeswoman said: "They were stopped in a public area of the hospital and questioned by police, who recorded their details and advised the pair that they would not be allowed to see her. No arrests were made and at no point was there any threat to Malala."

The hospital's medical director, Dr Dave Rosser, said that "a number of people turned up claiming to be members of Malala's family, which we don't believe to be true". He said the people in question had been arrested, but police issued a statement clarifying that no one had been detained.

Malala was shot at point-blank range last Tuesday after a gunman clambered into the back of a van full of her classmates. She rose to prominence in 2009 after writing a BBC blog describing the terror of living under the Taliban insurgency in Pakistan's Swat valley. The attack on her triggered worldwide condemnation and sent shockwaves through Pakistani society.

"Malala's bravery in standing up for the right of all young girls in Pakistan to an education is an example to us all," said the foreign secretary, William Hague.

A spokesman for Pakistan's military said Malala would require "prolonged care to fully recover from the physical and psychological effects of the trauma that she has received". That is likely to include the partial rebuilding of her skull and "intensive neuro-rehabilitation".

The Queen Elizabeth is one of Britain's 16 major trauma centres specialising in treating severe gunshot wounds and major head injuries. The Foreign Office said the Islamabad government was bearing the costs of transportation and treatment.

Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the militant group that has said it shot her, has threatened to attempt to kill her again if she recovers.

A Downing Street spokesman said on Monday that "security has been taken into account", but gave no specific details. Rosser said the hospital and West Midlands police were "comfortable with the levels of security".

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