The authorities in the Swat Valley, where the attack happened on October 9, said they were still searching for the man who shot Malala and wounded two other girls on a school bus.
The suspect has been identified as a member of the Pakistani Taliban named Attaullah. The authorities are seeking an accomplice as well.
The attack has made Malala an icon of resistance against Taliban oppression.
One senior provincial official said Attaullah had been arrested before, on suspicion of militant activity during a military operation in 2009 in Swat, in north-western Pakistan, but was freed because of a lack of evidence. ”Then we got to know that he was back in Swat and was planning some mischief,” the official said.
At Attaullah’s family home in Sangota, a hillside hamlet four miles from Mingora, the valley’s main town, neighbours said the security forces had detained his brother-in-law, an uncle and a brother – a common tactic employed by the police to force a fugitive to surrender.
One relative said that one of the detainees, Attaullah’s 18-year-old brother Ehsanullah, had been picked up more than a month ago – suggesting that the Taliban fugitive was being sought long before Malala was shot.
The other two men, one of whom is a driving instructor from Mingora named Abdul Haleem, were picked up after the attack on Malala. News reports said they were accused of sheltering the militant for a night.
Attaullah is believed to have fled to Afghanistan, where most of the Swat Taliban, including their leader, Maulana Fazlullah, have been based for several years, in the eastern provinces of Kunar and Nuristan.
Malala suffered a severe head injury in the attack and is being treated at the Queen Elizabeth II hospital in Birmingham. Hospital officials said she ”continued to impress doctors by responding well to her care”.