A teenage children’s rights activist was shot in the head on her way home from school in the formerly Taliban-controlled Swat in Pakistan’s northwest, AFP reports.

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack on 14-year old Malala Yousafzai – a brave young girl who spoke out for girls’ rights to education. Yousafzai was immediately taken to a military hospital in Peshwar where doctors are struggling to save her life. “We have thoroughly examined her, she is in critical condition. The bullet traveled from her head and then lodged in the back shoulder, near the neck,” a doctor told AFP.

Two other girls were wounded in the shooting, one was hit in the shoulder while the other in the leg, police said. One of the two girls recalled that two bearded men flagged down the school van and asked for Malala before firing on them.

Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan warned that anyone speaking out against them would suffer the same fate as Yousafzai.

“She is a Western-minded girl. She always speaks against us. We will target anyone who speaks against the Taliban,” he told AFP.

Ms. Yousafzai won international acclaim for writing a diary for the BBC revealing atrocities on girls perpetuated by the Taliban. She was also nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize in 2011.

President Asif Ali Zardari said the attack only strengthens Pakistan’s resolve to fight Islamist militants and support women’s rights to education. The United States expressed their revulsion in a statement by State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland: “Directing violence at children is barbaric, it’s cowardly, and our hearts go out to her and the others who were wounded, as well as their families”.