US and Pakistani officials have fiercely condemned the shooting of a 14-year-old Pakistani activist. The Pakistani Taliban said it carried out the attack in response to Malala Yousafzai's campaign for girls' education.
US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland slammed the attack on Yousafzai on Tuesday, which left the 14-year-old and two of her schoolmates seriously injured.
"Directing violence at children is barbaric, it's cowardly, and our hearts go out to her and the others who were wounded, as well as their families," Nuland said.
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari also strongly condemned the attack, asserting that it would not deter government efforts to fight Islamist militants or its determination to support women's education.
Yousafzai is said to be in a serious but stable condition after receiving bullet wounds to the head and neck. Police said militants had opened fire on the school bus she was travelling in in the Swat valley northwest of the capital, Islamabad.
The Pakistani Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was designed to avenge her criticism of militants attacks and campaign for girls' education.
"This girl was criticizing Taliban and jihad, so we targeted her," said Taliban spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan. "This is a warning for everyone who tries to follow in her footsteps and raise their voice against us."
"We warned her several times to stop speaking against the Taliban and to stop supporting Western NGOs, and to come to the path of Islam," Ihsan added.
Yousafzai rose to fame after highlighting Taliban atrocities in a BBC blog published in 2009, when Islamist militants led by radical cleric Maulana Fazlullah burned girls' schools and terrorized the valley.
Last year Pakistan awarded her the first-ever National Peace Award in recognition of her efforts. She was also nominated for the International Children's Peace Prize.
The Taliban controlled much of Swat from 2007-2009 but were supposedly driven out by an army offensive in July 2009.
ccp/jm (dpa, AFP, Reuters)