The Pakistani schoolgirl shot in the head by the Taliban last week is being sent to the UK for specialist medical treatment, a military spokesperson has said.
The spokesperson said in a statement on Monday that 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai, whose shooting has drawn condemnation abroad and at home, will require "prolonged" care to fully recover physically and psychologically.
An air ambulance transporting Malala, provided by the United Arab Emirates, had departed from Islamabad and was heading for the UK, the Pakistani army said.
|Doctors in Rawalpindi said Malala's progress over the
next few days would be "critical" [Reuters]
"The panel of doctors recommended that Malala be shifted abroad to a UK centre which has the capability to provide integrated care to children who have sustained severe injury," said the army spokesperson in the statement.
Malala - who has been campaigning for education for girls - was attacked last Tuesday as she was returning home from school in Mingora in northwestern Swat.
A source in a hospital in the city of Rawalpindi, where she was initially being treated, told Al Jazeera on Sunday that her condition was "critical" and that she had a slim chance of recovering.
Yousafzai has "very limited chance of life left", said the source, declining to be identified because he is not authorised to speak to the media.
The Pakistani military said on Saturday that Malala "was making steady and satisfactory progress".
The shooting of Yousafzai has been denounced worldwide and by the Pakistani authorities, who have offered a reward of more than $100,000 for the capture of her attackers.
'Crime against humanity'
The military earlier said Yousafzai's "vitals are okay" although they said she was on a ventilator.
"A board of doctors is continuously monitoring her condition," the army said.
Raja Pervez Ashraf, Pakistan's prime minister, visited Malala on Friday, paying tribute to her and two friends who were also wounded when a gunman boarded their school bus on Tuesday and opened fire.
"It was not a crime against an individual but a crime against humanity and an attack on our national and social values," he told reporters, pledging renewed vigour in Pakistan's struggle with so-called "Islamist militancy".
Kainat, one of the other two girls injured in the attack, is in stable condition and is expected to make a full recovery within two weeks. She was shot in her upper right arm.
Shazia, the third victim, is due to be released from military hospital in Peshawar and return to Swat soon, her family told Al Jazeera.
The attack has angered Pakistan, where Malala won international prominence with a blog that highlighted atrocities under the Taliban who terrorised the Swat valley from 2007 until a 2009 army offensive.
Activists say the shooting should be a wake-up call to those who advocate appeasement with the Taliban, but analysts suspect there will be no seismic shift in a country that has sponsored radical Islam for decades.
Schools opened with prayers for Malala on Friday and special prayers were held at mosques across the country for her speedy recovery at the country's top military hospital in the city of Rawalpindi.
Local police officials told Al Jazeera that the investigation into who was responsible for the attack was ongoing. The perpetrators were witnessed escaping into a nearby slum.
Four people have been arrested in connection to the shooting. They were among about 60 to 70 suspects rounded up in the Swat region this week, but all were subsequently released.
Schools in Afghanistan opened on Saturday with special prayers for the quick recovery of Yousafzai, in a move to show solidarity with her, officials said.
"To show sympathy to Malala Yousafzai around 9.5 million students all over the country in 15,500 schools and education centres offered prayers for her quick recovery," education ministry spokesman Amanullah Iman told the AFP news agency.
"The students also expressed their solidarity to their sister [Malala] because the attack on her was an attack on education," he said.
"Malala is just a girl and student like us, she shouldn't have been shot," Freshta, a 10 grade pupil told AFP.
"Today we recited Quran and prayed for her recovery," she said.
Clerics on Friday declared the attempt on her life to be "un-Islamic".
The joint fatwa, or religious edict, was issued by at least 50 scholars associated with the Sunni Ittehad Council, and appealed to worshippers to observe a "day of condemnation" on Friday.
"Islam holds the killing of one innocent person as killing the entirety of humanity," Hamid Saeed Kazmi, a former religious affairs minister in Pakistan, told reporters.
- With additional reporting from Hameedullah Khan and Asad Hashim in Swat Valley.