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Taliban commander: I wish Malala Yousafzai shooting had 'never happened'

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PESHAWAR, Pakistan -- A senior Taliban commander has described the attempted assassination of activist Malala Yousafzai as "shocking" and urged her to return home to Pakistan.

In a open letter to the young education campaigner, Adnan Rashid said he wished the attack by Taliban militants had "never happened."

However, Rashid did not apologize for the attack and said he would not discuss whether the Taliban's murder bid was "correct or wrong" or whether Malala "deserved to be killed or not."

"Let's leave it to Allah almighty," he added. "He is the best judge."

Gunmen attempted to kill the 14-year-old, who had campaigned and blogged about girls' education in the troubled Swat Valley, as she rode home on a school bus in October. A bullet passed through Malala's head and neck but she survived.

Rashid said that he first heard of Malala, whose 16th birthday was marked Friday with an address at the United Nations, when he was in prison for allegedly masterminding a failed suicide attack on Pakistan’s former president General Pervez Musharraf.

“I was thinking how to approach you,” he wrote. “My emotions were brotherly for you because we belong to same Yousafzai tribe.”

The former junior technician of the Pakistan Air Force escaped from prison in April 2012 when at least 400 fighters attacked the facility. Rashid said he was in hiding at the time of Malala's shooting.

"When you were attacked it was shocking for me," he said. "I wished it [had] never happened". 

Rashid said that Taliban fighters believed that Malala had been "running a smear campaign" against them before she was shot and thought her writing was "provocative."

He added: "If you were shot by Americans in a drone attack, would world have ever heard updates on your medical status? Would you be called 'daughter of the nation'? Would the media make a fuss about you? ... Would you [be] called to UN?"

"Innocent women and children have been killed in drone attacks but who cares because attackers are highly educated, non-violent, peaceful Americans." 

Rashid urged Malala to return to Pakistan from the U.K., where she has been receiving medical treatment.

He added: "I advise you to come back home. Adopt the Islamic and Pushtun culture, join any female Islamic madrasa near your hometown, study and learn the book of Allah, use your pen for Islam." 

During her United Nations appearance on Friday, Malala said the attack had made her stronger.

“They thought that the bullets would silence us, but they failed," she said. 

Malala added that she had no desire for revenge.

“I do not even hate the Talib who shot me. Even if there was a gun in my hand and he stands in front of me, I would not shoot him.”

Mansur Mahsud, a research director at the FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Area) Research Center in Islamabad, called Rashid's letter “a publicity stunt” and said he was “very surprised” that Rashid had written it.

“Adnan Rashid is a diehard militant," he said. I don’t think he would express these kind of desires or expressions on his own. 

“He clearly wants to impress the Pakistani public and the international community. Malala would not be safe if she returned. I think Adnan Rashid would very gladly send her to the other world.”

NBC News' Henry Austin contributed to this report.

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