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Key Taliban leader reaches out to Malala

| Wednesday, July 17, 2013, 9:48 p.m.

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — 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 had not happened.

“You have said in your speech yesterday that pen is mightier than sword,” Rasheed wrote in reference to Malala's speech on Friday at the United Nations, “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 militant group. The AP spoke to another Taliban commander on 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 and 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 militant group when it took over much of Swat in 2008 and 2009. That mirrors what some militants said at the time of the shooting.

Rasheed, who the Taliban broke out of prison last year, said the militants supported both boys and girls going to school as long as they received an Islamic education and didn't study what he called a “satanic or secular curriculum.”

Malala wrote in a blog for the BBC at the time the Taliban controlled Swat about how many students moved out of the valley after the Taliban issued an edict banning girls from school.

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