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Pakistan detains shooting suspect’s family

ISLAMABAD — Pakistani security forces have detained the family of a man accused of attacking Malala Yousafzai, the schoolgirl who became an icon of resistance against Taliban oppression and who is now being treated at a British hospital, neighbors of the man’s family said Thursday.

The authorities in the Swat Valley, where the attack happened Oct. 9, said they were still searching for the man who shot Yousafzai, 14, and two other girls on a school bus. The suspect has been identified as a member of the Pakistani Taliban named Attaullah, and the authorities are seeking an accomplice as well.

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One senior provincial official said Attaullah had been arrested before, on suspicion of militant activity during a military operation in 2009 in Swat, in northwestern 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 4 miles from Mingora, the valley’s main town, neighbors said 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.

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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 the Taliban fugitive was being sought long before Yousafzai 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 Yousafzai. News reports said they were accused of sheltering the militant for a night.

Attaullah, meanwhile, is widely 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.

Pakistani news reports have said that Fazlullah, a ruthless militant also known as Mullah Radio because he once ran a private FM station, personally ordered the attack on Yousafzai, whose advocacy of girls’ education and criticism of the Taliban annoyed the militants.

In Afghanistan, Fazlullah is also a target of US and NATO troops, although Pakistani officials accuse the Afghan intelligence services of quietly supporting him, ostensibly as payback for Pakistani tolerance of Afghan militants farther west along the porous border.

In the Afghan capital, Kabul, on Thursday, President Hamid Karzai told reporters that he hoped the attack on Yousafzai would demonstrate to ‘‘our brothers and sisters’’ in Pakistan that ‘‘using extremism as a tool against others is not in the interest of Pakistan.’’

Yousafzai suffered a severe head injury in the gun attack and is being treated at the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Birmingham, which specializes in trauma.

Hospital officials said Thursday that she had ‘‘continued to impress doctors by responding well to her care.’’

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