Pakistani surgeons have removed a bullet from teenage human rights campaigner Malala Yousufzai, who was shot yesterday by the Taliban.

Malala, 14, began standing up to the Taliban when she was 11-years-old, after the government effectively ceded control of the Swat Valley where she lives to the militants.

Doctors said they were forced to begin operating at around 7pm Irish time yesterday after she developed swelling in the brain.

They removed a bullet from near her spinal cord and finished at around 5am.

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf led condemnation of the Taliban attack on the teenager.

Malala campaigned for girls' rights and came to public attention in 2009 by writing an online diary.

In the diary, she wrote about life under Taliban militants, who had taken control of the Swat Valley and banned the education of girls.

She received death threats over the diary, but earlier this year said it was worth the risk.

The Pakistan Taliban claimed responsibility for the shooting and said they attacked Malala because she was a western-minded girl and secular.

They added that she would be targeted again and not be spared.

Taliban spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan said that: "Any female that, by any means, plays a role in the war against mujahideen should be killed."

He said: "We are dead against co-education and a secular education system."

Her father, Ziauddin Yousufzai, who ran a girls' school, said his daughter had wanted to go into politics.

He said that of all the things he loved about her, it was her fairness - her democratic ideals - that he loved the most.

"I never imagined that this could happen because Malala is a young innocent girl," her father said.

"Whenever there were threats, relatives and friends would tell Malala to take care but Malala was never fearful."

"She would frequently say 'I am satisfied. I am doing good work for my people so nobody can do anything to me'."

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was outraged at the shooting  and was writing to her family to offer support, his spokesman said.

Mr Ban called for those responsible for "this heinous and cowardly act to be swiftly brought to justice," saying he had been "deeply moved" by Malala's courageous efforts to promote a right to education.

His special envoy for children and armed conflict, Leila Zerrougui, and the United Nations Children's Fund also strongly condemned the attack.

"Education is a fundamental right for all children," said Ms Zerrougui in a statement. "The (Pakistani Taliban) must respect the right to education of all children, including girls, to go to school and live in peace."