Pakistani security agencies have arrested three brothers of a senior Taliban commander from Swat during a raid for alleged links to the near-fatal attack on teenage rights activist Malala Yousufzai, who is still on ventilator in hospital and making "slow and steady" progress.
The suspects, who were arrested yesterday in Nowshera district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, were sent to an undisclosed location for questioning, officials said.
The officials told the media that another brother of the three men was a senior commander in the Taliban faction led by Maulana Fazlullah, who controlled Swat till the army launched an operation there in early 2009.
The suspects were held a day after Swat district police chief Gul Afzal Khan Afridi announced that they had made an "important breakthrough" by arresting three other men, whose identity not disclosed, on suspicion of involvement in the attack on 14-year-old Malala.
Afridi had said police were hopeful of arresting Ataullah, the alleged mastermind of Tuesday's attack on Malala and two of her school friends, soon.
Earlier, police and security agencies had detained dozens of suspects for questioning in connection with the attack. The driver of Malala's school bus too was questioned.
Most of these people were released after questioning
On Malala's condition, the military on Sunday said she was making "slow and steady progress."
"Doctors have reviewed Malala's condition and are satisfied. She is making slow and steady progress which is in keeping with expectations," chief military spokesman Maj Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa said in a statement.
Malala has been on ventilator since she was shifted from Peshawar to the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology in Rawalpindi on Thursday after doctors removed a bullet lodged near her backbone.
She was shot in the head and neck during the Taliban attack on her and two of her school friends on Tuesday last.
Bajwa said recovery from "this type of injury is always slow."
Doctors are continuing to monitor Malala's condition closely and another detailed review will be carried out shortly, Bajwa said.
Yesterday, doctors reduced Malala's sedation so that neurosurgeons could make a "better clinical assessment."
Malala responded to stimulus and moved her hands and feet slightly.
Bajwa said that authorities have made preparations for all contingencies, including shifting Malala abroad for treatment, though no decision has been made in this regard.
In a related development, Pakistan's Ambassador to UAE, Jamil Ahmed Khan, said the UAE royal family plans to send an air ambulance for Malala in case doctors decide to send her abroad for treatment.
Visas were being finalised for the special UAE aircraft's crew and six doctors, he told Geo News channel.
The air ambulance will remain in Islamabad till a decision is made whether she should be shifted abroad.
Arrangements have been made to treat Malala at three hospitals in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Khan said.
The banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, which claimed responsibility for the attack on Malala, has said the girl was targeted for backing Western ideals and a secular government.
The shooting of the teenager has been denounced across the world.
Pakistani authorities have offered a reward of Rs 1 crore for information leading to the capture of Malala's attackers.
Meanwhile, people across Pakistan continued to offer prayers for Malala's recovery and hailed her for her campaign for education for all girls.
In Lahore, Father Shahid Meraj led special prayers for Malala at the Cathedral Church.
Meraj said Malala's attackers were not true followers of God, who wants every person, irrespective of religion, to get education.
Children and women lit candles to express solidarity with Malala and sang hymns.