Taliban Claims Malala Attack Was Spurred by Criticism of Group

When education advocate Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman as she was boarding a school bus last year, everyone assumed that it was her vocal support for girls’ education in Pakistan that was the cause. However, in a letter to Malala, senior Taliban commander Adnan Rashid says that the reason she was targeted was because of her fiery rhetoric against the terrorist group.

Chelsea J. Carter and Saima Mohsin report for CNN that the letter was released days after Malala spoke at the United Nations in support for universal education. In it, Rashid writes that the Taliban attempted to silence Malala because they believed she was “smearing” the group and its efforts to establish control over Pakistan’s Swat Valley.

CNN cannot confirm the authenticity of the letter, but its validity has been generally accepted by Pakistan intelligence officials.

Rashid made headlines last year after the Taliban broke him out of a Bannu prison, where he was serving a life sentence following his 2003 conviction for his role in the attempted murder of former President Pervez Musharraf. Nearly 400 prisoners were freed in the jailbreak, which authorities believe was staged to get Rashid out, a former Pakistani Air Force officer.

Rashid expressed regret about the shooting, as well as his failure to warn Malala ahead of time. He added that the contention that the Taliban opposes education of girls is wrong. Girls should be educated, Rashid writes, as long as that education adheres to strict Islamic mores.

Gordon Brown, former Prime Minister and current special envoy to the United Nations on global education, dismissed those claims, adding that until the Taliban stops targeting schools for their attacks, any claims they make in support of education should be regarded as lies.

Meanwhile, Malala, who is continuing her rehabilitation in Birmingham, will be subject of the documentary by Davis Guggenheim, director of the Oscar-winning “An Inconvenient Truth.” Reuters reports that the film is slated for release in 2014 and will follow Malala’s travels and her work as education campaigner. The documentary is being produced by Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald.

“There are few stories Laurie and I have ever come across that are as compelling, urgent or important as the real-life struggle of Malala and her father Ziauddin on behalf of universal education for children,” Parkes said in a statement.

The teenager was treated in Pakistan before the United Arab Emirates provided an air ambulance to fly her to Britain, where doctors mended parts of her skull with a titanium plate.

Unable to return safely to Pakistan, Yousafzai enrolled in a school in Birmingham, England in March.