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Pakistan reveals suspects in Malala shooting were secretly acquitted

Police have revealed that only two of the 10 men arrested for attempting to murder Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai were actually jailed. In 2012, the teen survived a shooting attack by Taliban fighters.

The Swat district police chief, Salim Marwat, said that despite earlier announcements, all but two of the suspects detained over the crime were cleared and released.

"Two of them were sentenced to life imprisonment while eight others were acquitted," he said.

"I have no knowledge where the eight persons are now—either in military custody or released."

Azad Khan, the deputy inspector general of police for the Malakand division, to which Swat belongs, also confirmed this information.

The details surfaced in a report in Britain's "Daily Mirror" newspaper, after reporters tried to locate the 10 men in Pakistan's prison system.

In 2012, then 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head in an ambush by Taliban militants. Two other students were also hurt in the attack. Officials announced in April that an

anti-terrorism court had found 10 men guilty of the crime,

and sentenced them to 25 years in jail, considered a life sentence in Pakistan. The existence of the trial was not revealed until after its conclusion.

Authorities said they had arrested all those involved in planning the attack in September of last year under an anti-militant offensive. But Marwat has now told news service DPA that only those who actually shot Yousafzai were convicted. A senior official said the eight others were acquitted due to insufficient evidence.

A security official in Mingora, Yousafzai's hometown, insisted that all 10 men were found guilty, and accused the police of lying. The man alleged to have actually shot the teen at point-blank range is believed to have escaped across the border into Afghanistan.

The revelations are likely to spark renewed criticism of Pakistan's justice system. Closed trials are commonplace in the nation, due to fear of retaliation from militants.

Yousafzai, who is often referred to simply as Malala, went on to become the

youngest ever Nobel peace laureate since 1901,

and now lives in Britain with her family. She continues to campaign for the rights of girls in Pakistan to receive an education.

an/kms (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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