Malala Yousafzai arrives at special gunshot unit in British hospital

Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl shot in the head by the Taliban because she campaigned for the right to be educated, arrived in the UK on Monday to be cared for at Birmingham's Queen Elizabeth hospital.

"Doctors ... believe she has a chance of making a good recovery on every level," said Dr Dave Rosser, the hospital's medical director, adding her treatment and rehabilitation could take months. He told reporters she had not yet been assessed by British medics but said she would not have been brought to the UK at all if her chances recovery were not good.

Six days after a gunman clambered into the back of a van full of her classmates and shot her from point blank range, the 14-year-old landed at Birmingham airport after flying by on a special air ambulance from Pakistan. Malala travelled to the UK on her own, but her family may follow later.

The Queen Elizabeth hospital is also home to the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine, the primary receiving unit for military casualties returned from overseas.

"Malala's bravery in standing up for the right of all young girls in Pakistan to an education is an example to us all," said the foreign secretary, William Hague.

A spokesman for Pakistan's military said the girl would require "prolonged care to fully recover from the physical and psychological effects of the trauma that she has received". That is likely to include the partial rebuilding of her skull and "intensive neuro-rehabilitation".

While in the UK she will also be safe from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the militant group that has claimed responsibility for shooting her and which has vowed to try and kill her again if she recovers. The attempted murder of the young peace activist sparked worldwide condemnation and sent shockwaves through Pakistani society.

Politicians have been forced to make strong public stands against the TTP, tens of thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets and journalists daring to reflect the public mood have been warned of planned reprisals by militants.

Efforts to save the life of a young girl who rose to prominence in 2009 after writing a BBC blog describing the terror of living under Taliban insurgency in Pakistan's Swat valley have already seen her shuttled between hospitals. She was initially airlifted from Swat to Peshawar, where surgeons spent three hours removing a bullet that had become lodged near her spinal cord.

Her injury was not instantly fatal because she ducked just before the gunman fired, apparently ensuring the bullet missed much of her brain. She was later moved to a hospital in Rawalpindi, the garrison town close to the Pakistani capital.

Although she has been unconscious throughout her ordeal, relying on a ventilator to breathe, she has received bedside visits from some of the most powerful people in the land, including the prime minister and the army chief. The military has described her recovery as satisfactory and said she was able to move her legs and hands several days ago when her sedatives were reduced. It has not said whether she suffered any brain damage or other permanent trauma.

Offers of assistance have poured in from across the world, including from paediatric surgeons at Johns Hopkins University's school of medicine in Baltimore, in the US. However, it was decided on Sunday that she should be moved to the Queen Elizabeth hospital in Birmingham.

Moazzam Khan, spokesman for the Pakistani ministry of foreign affairs, said the decision not to accept the US offer of help had been taken by her doctors for purely medical reasons. "Several other countries had also offered treatment, and the US was among them," he said. "But due to the conditions of the patient and keeping in view the distance and the hours of travelling Britain was preferred."

The Queen Elizabeth is one of Britain's 16 major trauma centres specialising in treating severe gunshot wounds and major head injuries. The Foreign Office said the Islamabad government is bearing the costs of transportation and treatment.

Gordon Brown, the UN special envoy for global education, launched an I am Malala petition on Monday. "Today, sadly, 32 million girls are not going to school, and it is time to fight harder for Malala's dream to come true," he said. He added he would hand the petition to Asif Ali Zardari when he visited the Pakistani president next month and that it would also be given to the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon.

Police have arrested at least three suspects in connection with the attack but the two gunmen who carried out the shooting remain at large.

The biggest rally yet showing solidarity with Malala was held in Karachi on Sunday with an estimated 10,000 people. Although some politicians have been criticised for not specifically naming the TTP in their otherwise damning statements about the incident, many analysts have been impressed by the resolve of Pakistan's leaders.

Last week, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the powerful army chief, released a statement in which he called Yousafzai an "icon of courage and hope" and vowed to fight against terror "regardless of the cost". There has even been speculation that the current mood of national outrage may lead to military operations to try and clear militants out of North Waziristan, an area near the border of Afghanistan where the US has long demanded action.

On Monday however, Rehman Malik, the country's interior minister, said there were no such plans currently.