LONDON (AFP) - Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai, who survived being shot in the head by the Taleban to champion girls' rights to education, paid tribute to "my leader" Nelson Mandela on Friday following his death.
The 16-year-old, who earlier this year was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize that Mandela won in 1993, said Mandela would "never die" and was a "perpetual inspiration" for people around the world.
"Nelson Mandela is physically separated from us but his soul and spirit will never die," Malala, who is now at school in Britain, said in a statement.
"He belongs to the whole world because he is an icon of equality, freedom and love, the values we need all the time everywhere. His long, long struggle is a great demonstration of humanity," she added.
"I have learned so much from Nelson Mandela and he has been my leader. He is a perpetual inspiration for me and millions of others around the world."
Malala was shot in the head by a Taleban gunman on a school bus in October 2012, an attack that drew worldwide condemnation.
She underwent surgery in Britain, and since her recovery has become a leading educational campaigner.
In recent months, Malala has won a series of prizes including the European Union's Sakharov prize for human rights, which Mandela also won, while she missed out on the Nobel.