As a Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot in the head by Taliban militants last week fights for her life in a British hospital, a battle to tarnish her reputation is being waged on social networks and news sites in Pakistan.
In yet another statement to the Pakistani news media defending the assassination attempt, a Taliban spokesman claimed on Tuesday that young Malala Yousafzai, who had criticized the Islamists for closing girls’ schools in a blog she wrote for the BBC when she was 11, was “a spy who divulged secrets” and “created propaganda.” The spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan, also took pains to note reports that the girl had turned 15 in July, suggesting that this meant that she was no longer a child. “Even if no sign of puberty becomes noticeable,” he said, “this age of the girl marks the end of prepuberty phase.” That being the case, he added, the “Taliban executed the attack on an adult girl only after she emerged as a pivotal character in the media war against us.”
The Taliban’s media wing issued the statement after an outpouring of sympathy for the girl, and anger at the militants, swept Pakistan. As my colleague Declan Walsh reported, “Front-page headlines have carried updates of her medical treatment, schoolchildren held prayer services and candlelight vigils, and the political system has united to condemn the Taliban with an unusual vehemence and unity.”
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