Pakistan released Malala attack `mastermind` 3 years ago

The Taliban militant, known as Attaullah, remains at large after the attack on 14-year-old Malala.

Last Updated: Oct 19, 2012, 14:57 PM IST

New York: The accused mastermind behind the assassination attempt on Pakistani teen education campaigner Malala Yousufzai was arrested three years ago, but was released, according to an intelligence official.

The Taliban militant, known as Attaullah, remains at large after the attack on 14-year-old Malala, which took place while she was returning home from school last Tuesday.

Malala was shot in the neck and head and two other girls sustained injuries after Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants opened fire on their school van. The incident sparked worldwide outrage and raised questions about Pakistan`s efforts to fight extremism, reports New York Daily Times.

Authorities have rounded up Attaullah`s relatives in an effort to force the alleged terrorist to surrender. The military had him in their custody in 2009, during an offensive to drive the Taliban out of the Swat Valley.

"He spent three months in the custody of security forces but was freed after no evidence (of wrongdoing) was found," one intelligence official was quoted, as saying.

It was during the Taliban reign in the valley that Malala, then just 11, began to write a blog, under the pen name ``Gul Makai`` for the BBC, describing Taliban atrocities.

She encouraged female education and for this, the Taliban branded her a ‘Western spy’ and targeted her for death. Authorities have said the fugitive head of the Swat Taliban, Maulana Fazlullah, also known as Mullah Radio, ordered the attack on Malala. Malala is presently recuperating at a hospital in Birmingham, UK, where she was taken on Monday.

Doctors say she is in stable condition but have released little information about the extent of her injuries or her prognosis.