Fears blight 'Malala Day' in schoolgirl's hometown

Malala Yousafzai

Pakistan marked "Malala Day" today on a global day of support for the teenager shot by the Taliban for promoting girls' education, but in her home town security fears meant schoolmates could not honour her in public.

Taliban hitmen shot Malala Yousafzai on her school bus a month ago in Mingora in Pakistan's northwestern Swat Valley, in a cold-blooded murder attempt for the "crime" of campaigning for girls' rights to go to school.

Miraculously the 15-year-old survived and her courage has won the hearts of millions around the world, prompting the UN to declare Saturday a "global day of action" for her.

People around the world are expected to hold vigils and demonstrations honouring Malala and calling for the 32 million girls worldwide who are denied education to be allowed to go to school.

Demonstrations backing Malala were held in Islamabad, Karachi, the eastern city of Lahore and Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-administered Kashmir and Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf saluted Malala's courage.

But in Mingora, the threat of further Taliban reprisals casts a fearful shadow, with students at Malala's Khushal Public School forced to honour her in private.

"We held a special prayer for Malala today in our school assembly and also lit candles," school principal Mariam Khalid said.

"We did not organise any open event because our school and its students still face a security threat."

Though their bid to kill Malala failed, the Taliban have said they will attack any woman who stands against them. Fears are so great that Khalid said even speaking to the media could put students' lives in danger.

Two of Malala's friends were wounded in the attempt on her life and one, 16-year-old Kainaat Riaz, said she was still haunted by memories of the attack.

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