Pakistani teenage activist Malala Yusufzai has told the US President that drone strikes in her country are “fuelling terrorism”.
The 16-year-old schoolgirl, who was shot in the head and neck by Taliban gunmen who attacked her school bus in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, met Barack Obama and the First Lady in the White House.
“I thanked President Obama for the United States’ work in supporting education in Pakistan and Afghanistan and for Syrian refugees,” she said after the meeting.
“I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fuelling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people.
“If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact.”
The US military and the CIA have carried out hundreds of drone strikes against militant groups in the northwest Pakistan since 2004.
But the Pakistani government complains that they also frequently kill civilians and turn ordinary people against Islamabad and the US.
Malala attracted the anger of the Taliban by writing a blog chronicling the challenges of daily life under the Islamists.
She is now living in Britain, where she underwent treatment for the injuries sustained in the attack, and campaigns for girls’ right to education.
Mr Obama praised the teenager for her “inspiring and passionate work” and signed a proclamation to mark the International Day of the Girl.
A statement issued by the White House said: “The United States joins with the Pakistani people and so many around the world to celebrate Malala’s courage and her determination to promote the right of all girls to attend school and realise their dreams.”
Malala had been among the favourites for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, but the award was handed to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
In 2012 Barack Obama condemned Malala’s shooting as “barbaric”. White House spokesman Jay Carney said. “I know that the President found the news reprehensible and disgusting and tragic.”
The Pakistani army retook control of Swat later that year, and Malala received the country’s highest civilian award.
Since then she has been nominated for several international awards for child activists – including the EU’s Sakharov human rights prize which she won earlier in the week – and has written a book about her campaign work called I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up For Education And Was Shot By The Taliban.
Last week Pakistani Taliban spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said the group stood by its decision to target the teenager, who he said “targeted and criticised Islam”.
“She accepted that she attacked Islam so we we tried to kill her, and if we get another chance we will definitely kill her and that will make us feel proud.
“Islam prohibits killing women, but excepts those that support the infidels in their war against our religion.”.