Islamabad: Pakistan has identified a young Taliban militant as the lead suspect in the attack on 15-year-old education activist Malala Yousufzai.
Malala, who was shot for advocating girls`` right to education and raising her voice against Taliban oppression in Swat, was shot in the neck and head and two other girls sustained injuries when the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) opened fire on their school van in Swat valley on October 9.
Ataullah Khan, a university science student in his early 20s was described by a senior Pakistani intelligence official as "the principle suspect who stitched together the plot" to target Malala, reports CBS News.
A senior government official also confirmed to CBS News that Khan was the prime suspect in the case. Another Pakistani intelligence official told CBS News that investigators believe Khan may have crossed the border into Afghanistan following the shooting.
In an effort to draw Khan- who remains at large- back across the border, his mother and his fiancee have been taken into custody by Pakistani authorities, officials said.
Separately, a senior government official in Peshawar said that at least eight people remained in custody in connection with the shooting. At one stage, up to 20 people had been detained by police as the investigation into the shooting ramped up, said the official.
"These suspects were brought in for questioning, but many were released when they were cleared by the security forces. The investigations have made important headway. We believe the militants will not be able to run very far," said the official. Meanwhile, Malala continues to make steady progress at a Birmingham hospital in the UK.