Police in Pakistan say they have arrested three suspects in connection with the attempted murder of Malala Yousafzai, a 14-year-old peace campaigner, as the Pakistan Taliban claims the attack was months in the planning.
The schoolgirl faces a critical weekend as she fights for her life in hospital.
Doctors said she remained unconscious but was in a satisfactory condition after being shot by a gunman who boarded her school bus on Tuesday.
Local television stations reported a breakthrough in the case, quoting police sources saying three key suspects had been detained and that officers were closing in on the mastermind behind the attack.
However, dozens of suspects have been arrested so far in the investigation -- including the bus driver, school guards and eyewitnesses -- and all have been released on bail.
Malala rose to prominence as the author of a blog on the BBC Urdu service, which described the brutality of life under the Taliban when they controlled her home town and the Swat Valley in 2009.
A spokesman for the Swat branch of the Pakistan Taliban yesterday claimed the would-be assassins were drawn from a pool of 100 men skilled in targeted killings.
The decision to attack her, Sirajuddin Ahmad told the Reuters news agency from the safety of Afghanistan, was taken at a meeting some months ago.
"Before the attack, the two fighters personally collected information about Malala's route to school, timing, the vehicle she used and her security," he said.
They decided to shoot her near a military checkpoint to make the point they could strike anywhere, he added.
Meanwhile, doctors continue to watch for signs of improvement.
"Malala's condition is satisfactory, but the next 36 to 48 hours are critical," said Major General Asim Saleem Bajwa, military spokesman, at a media briefing.
Vigils and prayer meetings were held around the country yesterday.
Raja Pervez Ashraf, Pakistan's prime minister, visited the teenager in hospital, paying tribute to her and two friends who were also wounded.
"It was not a crime against an individual but a crime against humanity and an attack on our national and social values," he said, pledging renewed vigour in Pakistan's struggle with Islamist militancy. (© Daily Telegraph, London)