LONDON Oct. 16, 2012 -- Two people who tried to meet 14-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yusufzai in her Birmingham hospital bed were questioned by police, highlighting fears about the safety of the girl who has become a global icon of hope and courage.
The people were well-wishers, according to police, but the medical director at the Birmingham Queen Elizabeth Hospital initially claimed they were arrested after pretending to be members of Yusufzai's family.
Hospital staff members eventually retracted the statement, but it seemed to show they remain acutely aware of the threats on Yusufzai's life. The Taliban, which shot the girl in the head in Pakistan, promise to keep trying to kill the elegant advocate for girl's education, no matter how long it takes.
Yusufzai was sent to Birmingham in part because it was safer than hospitals in Pakistan, according to officials in Pakistan. Hospital spokesman Dave Rosser insisted that despite the incident overnight, he and police were comfortable with security arrangements.
"Security is working," Rosser said. "I mentioned this to make sure nobody is foolish enough to try it again."
The confusion over what happened overshadowed the positive news: Yusufzai is now in stable condition. Doctors in Pakistan removed her ventilator and announced that she could move her limbs in response to stimuli, but this was the first time she was described as stable.
"We are very pleased by her progress," Rosser said. "She is every bit as strong as we were led to believe."
At least half a dozen specialists have already seen Yusufzai, who will need reconstructive surgery on her skull. She will also need neurological rehabilitation and psychological treatment. The complexity of her care is the main reason she was flown to this hospital, which is the facility in Britain most similar to Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, known for its treatment of wounded soldiers.
In Pakistan, Interior Minister Rehman Malik announced a million dollar bounty on the Pakistani Taliban's spokesman who initially announced the attack. The Taliban reiterated that Yusufzai was a legitimate target, calling her a U.S. spy.
"Islam orders killing of those who are spying for enemies," the group said in a statement emailed to news agencies. "We targeted her because she would speak against the Taliban while sitting with shameless strangers and idealized the biggest enemy of Islam, Barack Obama."
The Taliban have released an unusually high number of statements since she survived, a clear indication that the militant group is aware of the massive, international backlash that her attack launched.
School children in the United Arab Emirates, Nepal, and even India have prayed publicly for her health. A senior U.S. official said a handful of Americans offered to provide her care, including the doctor who treated Gabby Giffords, the former Arizona congresswoman who survived a shooting similar to Yusufzai's.
Her eloquence and courage have made her a global ambassador for girls' education. In a never before seen interview conducted in 2009, Yusufzai movingly urged the world to help fight against anyone who restricted female education.
"I want to say to the world, keep -- you must try to [support] education because it's very important… If the new generation is not given pens, they will be given guns by the terrorists," she told journalist Rohit Gandhi in video posted on the internet site NowThisNews.com. "We should say no to wrong and if there is going something wrong, we … must have the confidence to say that this thing is going wrong and we must raise our voice."