A Taliban leader wrote in a letter that he wished the shooting of Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani teenager who advocated for education for girls, "never happened."
A Taliban gunman shot Yousafzai, 16, at close range in the head and neck last October as she left school in Pakistan's Swat Valley, northwest of the country's capital Islamabad, Reuters reported.
The teen was targeted for her campaign against Islamist Taliban's efforts to deny women education.
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Adnan Rashid, a senior Taliban commander, urged Yousafzai to return home to Pakistan from the hospital in Britain where she is recovering and called the shooting "shocking."
"When you were attacked it was shocking for me. I wished it [had] never happened," Rashid wrote in the open letter. "I was thinking how to approach you. My emotions were brotherly for you because we belong to same Yousafzai tribe."
However, Rashid did not apologize for the attack or say whether Yousafzai deserved to be killed for her campaign.
"Let's leave it to Allah almighty," Rashid said. "He is the best judge."
Yousafzai celebrated her 16th birthday with a speech at the United Nations last Friday and argued that educating women across the globe could positively impact society.
Yousafzai was flown to a British hospital after the near-fatal attack.
Rashid said he first heard of the 16-year-old activist's campaign while in prison for a failed suicide attack against Pakistan’s former president General Pervez Musharraf.
Rashid escaped from prison in April 2012 after an attack on the prison and was in hiding at the time of Yousafzai's shooting.
Mansur Mahsud, a research director at the Federally Administered Tribal Area Research Center in Islamabad, told NBC News he did not see Rashid's comments as a turning point
in the group's attitude toward girls and education, calling the letter "a publicity stunt."
"Adnan Rashid is a diehard militant," Mahsud said. "I don’t think he would express these kinds of desires or expressions on his own. He clearly wants to impress the Pakistani public and the international community. Malala would not be safe if she returned."
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