MINGORA, Pakistan -- Fourteen-year-old Malala Yousafzai was admired across a battle-scarred region of Pakistan for exposing the Taliban's atrocities and advocating for girls' education in the face of religious extremists. On Tuesday, the Taliban nearly killed her to quiet her message.

A gunman walked up to a bus taking children home from school in the volatile northern Swat Valley and shot Malala in the head and neck. Another girl on the bus also was wounded.

The young activist was airlifted to a military hospital in Peshawar. A doctor in the city of Mingora, Tariq Mohammad, said her wounds weren't life-threatening, but a provincial information minister said after a medical board examined the girl that the next few days would be crucial.

Malala began writing a blog for the BBC when she was just 11 under the pseudonym Gul Makai about life under the Taliban, and began speaking out publicly in 2009 about the need for girls' education -- which the Taliban strongly opposes. The extremist movement was quick to claim responsibility for shooting her.

"This was a new chapter of obscenity, and we have to finish this chapter," Taliban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan said by telephone.

The shooting provoked outrage across the country, angering Pakistanis who have seen a succession of stories about violence against women by the Taliban.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland called the shooting "barbaric" and "cowardly."-- AP

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