Pakistan's teenage activist Malala Yousafzai, shot by the Taliban for fighting for girls' rights to education, was awarded the European Parliament's prestigious Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

The 16-year-old was attacked in northwestern Pakistan by a group of armed men who fired on her school bus.

"Today, we decided to let the world know that our hope for a better future stands in young people like Malala Yousafzai," chairman of the conservative European People's Party (EPP), Joseph Daul, said on Thursday.

Malala, who has become an emblem of the fight against the most radical forms of Islamism, had also been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize but it went to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons on Friday.

Malala, who has written a book about her ordeal, is still living in Britain a year after the attack as she remains threatened by the Taliban who say they will kill her should she return to Pakistan.

The principal at her old school says that as Malala's fame has grown, so has fear in her classrooms.

Past winners

The Sakharov Prize is given by the European Parliament each year since 1988 to commemorate Soviet scientist and dissident Andrei Sakharov.

Its past winners include Nelson Mandela and Burmese activist Aung San Suu Kyi.

Witness - A Schoolgirl's Odyssey

Edward Snowden had been nominated by the Green group in the parliament for what it said was his "enormous service" to human rights and European citizens when he disclosed secret United States surveillance programmes.

Yousafzai was chosen as the winner after a vote among the heads of all the political groups in the 750-member parliament.

Asked about her conflicting dreams of becoming a doctor or a politician during an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour on Thursday, she said she wanted to help her homeland.

"I want to become a prime minister of Pakistan," she said.

"I can spend much of the budget on education," Malala said to applause and laughter as she sat next to her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, a human-rights activist and founder of an all-girls school in Pakistan.

Malala addressed the UN on her 16th birthday, and she expects to meet Queen Elizabeth II later this month.

Source: Agencies