Pakistani Taliban leader Adnan Rasheed has sent a letter to schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai, expressing shock that she was shot by Taliban gunmen last year.
The Taliban was universally condemned after gunmen shot Malala Yousafzai in the head.
In his letter to Malala, Adnan Rasheed stops short of apologising but says he wished the attack “had never happened”.
He also claims the shooting was not in response to Malala Yousafzai’s campaign for girls’ education, but because she ran an anti-Taliban “smear campaign”.
Malala Yousafzai – who is considered a contender for the Nobel Peace Prize – is credited with bringing the education issue to global attention.
Speaking at UN headquarters in New York last Friday, she said that books and pens scared extremists. She also urged education for all, including “for the sons and daughters of the Taliban and all the terrorists”.
Correspondents say Adnan Rasheed’s letter was an apparent attempt to attract media attention with a view to counter the impact of Malala Yousafzai’s speech at the UN.
A copy of the letter was obtained by Channel 4 News and other news organizations.
Writing in his “personal capacity”, Adnan Rasheed said he felt “brotherly” emotions towards Malala because they belong to the “same Yousufzai tribe”.
However, he refuses to condemn the attack, saying the judgement on whether it was correct or not should be left to God.
Adnan Rasheed says he first heard of Malala Yousafzai’s work when he was in prison, when the BBC Urdu service broadcast a diary that she wrote.
He says he wished he had been able to “advise” her before the attack, which he describes as an “accident”.
The Taliban leader also says that his group is not “against education of any men or women or girls”. Instead he claims Malala Yousafzai was targeted because she campaigned to “malign [the Taliban’s] efforts to establish the Islamic system”.
“You have said in your speech that the pen is mightier than the sword, so they attacked you for your sword, not for your books or school,” he writes.
Adnan Rasheed finishes by telling Malala Yousafzai to “come back home, adopt the Islamic and Pashtun culture and join any female Islamic madrassa [school], use your pen… and reveal the conspiracy of the tiny elite who want to enslave the whole of humanity”.
Malala Yousafzai’s family said in a statement that they were aware of the letter but had not received it directly and had no wish to comment on it.
After the shooting, Malala Yousafzai was flown from Pakistan to the UK for treatment, and now lives in Birmingham, England.
Her speech on her 16th birthday at UN headquarters in New York was her first public address since last October’s attack.
Malala Yousafzai said she was fighting for the rights of women because “they are the ones who suffer the most”.
A quarter of young women around the world have not completed primary school.