Taliban Commander Pens Letter to Shot Pakistani Teen

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) -

A prominent Pakistani Taliban commander has written a letter to a teenage girl shot in the head by the group, expressing regrets that he didn’t warn her before the assassination attempt that propelled her activism to the international stage.

The letter from Adnan Rasheed, however, didn’t apologize for the October attack that left Malala Yousafzai gravely wounded. Rasheed, who has close relations with Taliban leaders, only said that he found the shooting “shocking” and wished it hadn’t happened.

Rasheed said he would leave it up to G-d to decide whether the outspoken activist for girls’ education should have been targeted.

“You have said in your speech yesterday that pen is mightier than sword,” Rasheed wrote in reference to Malala’s speech Friday at the U.N., “so they attacked you for your sword not for your books or school.”

Rasheed said the letter received by The Associated Press late Tuesday night expressed his own opinion, not that of the terrorist group. The AP spoke to another Taliban commander Wednesday who confirmed the letter, written in English, was authentic.

Malala was 15 years old when she and two of her friends were attacked on their way home from school in Pakistan’s northwest Swat Valley. The assassination attempt sparked worldwide condemnation. Malala celebrated her 16th birthday last week by giving a speech at the U.N. in New York, telling the body that the attack gave her new courage while demanding world leaders provide free education to all children.

Rasheed said the Taliban did not attack Malala because she was a proponent for girls’ education, but because she was critical of the terrorist group when it took over much of Swat in 2008 and 2009.

Former British prime minister Gordon Brown, now a U.N. special envoy on global education, criticized Rasheed for writing the letter while the Taliban continues to attack schools.

“Nobody will believe a word the Taliban say about the right of girls like Malala to go to school until they stop burning down schools and stop massacring pupils,” Brown said in a statement.