Pakistan's Malala recovering after surgery

LONDON (AFP) - British doctors said on Sunday that Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl shot in the head by the Taleban as punishment for campaigning for girls' education, has had successful surgery on her skull.

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in the central English city of Birmingham said the 15-year-old had undergone two operations on Saturday to insert a titanium plate into her skull and fit an electronic device in her ear.

Malala was shot by a Taleban gunman at point-blank range as her schoolbus travelled through Pakistan's Swat Valley on Oct 9, in an attack that shocked the world.

She was flown to Britain days later for treatment at the specialist hospital, which also treats British soldiers wounded in Afghanistan. Malala, who has become a global symbol of the campaign for girls' right to an education, was nominated on Friday for this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

A hospital spokesman said the schoolgirl's medical team were "very pleased" with her progress following five hours of surgery.

"Both operations were a success and Malala is now recovering in hospital," the spokesman said.

"Her condition is described as stable and her medical team are very pleased with the progress she has made so far. She is awake and talking to staff and members of her family." At a press conference on Wednesday giving details of the surgery, Malala's doctors said the custom-made titanium plate would protect her brain by covering the hole left in her head by the bullet.

Doctors say the bullet grazed Malala's brain, coming within centimetres of killing her, and travelled through her head and neck before lodging in her left shoulder.

The attack left her completely deaf in her left ear but surgeons said a cochlear implant inserted on Saturday should help her hearing return to near-normal levels within 18 months.

The hospital's medical director Dave Rosser told Wednesday's press conference that Malala was a "remarkable young lady" who was determined to continue speaking out for girls' right to education despite her ordeal.

She was temporarily discharged by the hospital on Jan 4 and is currently staying in Birmingham with her parents and siblings, who have joined her in England.

Her father has been given a job as education attache at Pakistan's consulate in Birmingham, a city with a large Pakistani community.

Malala first rose to prominence aged 11 with a blog for the BBC's Urdu-language service charting her life under the Taleban, whose reign of terror in Swat supposedly came to an end with an army operation in 2009.

Since her attempted murder, millions of people have signed petitions supporting her cause, while the United Nations declared a global "Malala Day" last November.

The Nobel Peace Prize will be announced in early October and will be bestowed at a formal ceremony in Oslo on Dec 10.

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