Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenage activist shot by the Taliban, has been hotly tipped as a Nobel Prize winner ahead of the annual awards that get underway on today.
Yousafzai, 16, who had risen to prominence campaigning for education for girls, was shot in the head by the Taliban in October last year as she made her way to school in Pakistan's restive Swat Valley region.
She was later brought for treatment at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham where Malala and her family currently live.
She gave a speech at the United Nations in July saying she would not bow to "terrorists" who thought they could silence her.
Malala is a favourite for the peace prize among experts and betting agencies, according to Reuters.
"I have Malala Yousafzai on top," Kristian Berg Harpviken, director of Oslo-based peace research institute PRIO, told reporters on Sunday.
"The EU (European Union) got the prize last year and the EU prize was poorly understood and fundamentally questioned in many quarters."
One obstacle could be her age. Tawakkol Karman, a Yemeni human rights activist and youngest winner to date, was 32 when she received the prize and some experts argue the prize would overburden such a young woman.
Malala told the BBC's Panorama program this week that winning the peace prize would be "a great opportunity".
"If I win Nobel Peace Prize, it would be a great opportunity for me, but if I don't get it, it's not important because my goal is not to get Nobel Peace Prize, my goal is to get peace and my goal is to see the education of every child."
The news comes as the Pakistani Taliban told an American news channel that Yousafzai was targeted not because she was advocating for girls' education but because she "attacked Islam".
A spokesman also told ABC News the group would try to kill her again if they could.
"We targeted Malala Yousafzai because she attacked Islam and make a jokes on Islam, if we found her again then we would definitely try to kill her and will feel proud on her death," Shahidullah Shahid told ABC News.
"We didn't target her for spreading education in her area, we targeted her for making jokes of Islam, and that was enough reason for attacking her."
Malala was 11 years old when she took a stand against the Taliban, who had issued an edict that all girls' schools should be closed. She began advocating for the right to go to school, writing an anonymous blog for the BBC and appearing in a New York Times documentary.
Her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, ran a girls' school in the SWAT Valley, and had been targeted for death by the Taliban. And Malala's increasing visibility put her at risk as well.
When the Taliban struck, on the morning of Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012, Malala was on a schoolbus in the northwest Pakistani district of Swat.
A gunman got on, asked for the girl by name and then shot her three times.
The bullet narrowly missed Malala's brain and she was taken to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England, six days after the attack. She spent nearly three months in the hospital and underwent numerous surgeries.
Aside from her speech to the United Nations and setting up the Malala Fund for education with the backing of Angelina Jolie and others, Yousafzai has been widely feted in Britain.
On Monday she was invited to Buckingham Palace by Queen Elizabeth II for an event promoting education in Commonwealth countries on October 18.
"We understand that Malala Yousafzai will be attending the Commonwealth Universities and Education Reception at Buckingham Palace," a palace spokesman said.
Academics and teachers will be among the guests at the event.
- Agencies (Edited by Viji Alles)BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS