MINGORA, Pakistan -- Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai expressed joy and shed tears as she paid a short "dream" visit to her hometown in Pakistan’s northwestern Swat Valley for the first time since she was shot by Taliban militants in 2012.
"I wish to be in Swat, to be among you and serve you," Malala, 20, said on March 31 as she met with former schoolmates and relatives at her old family house.
"It is still like a dream for me to be among you," she said. "Am I among you? Is it a dream or reality," she said.
Malala landed by helicopter in the town of Mingora amid heightened security together with her father, mother, and two brothers.
She burst into tears as she entered her old house, and her mother and father wept as well, a friend of Malala who was present told RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal.
"So much joy seeing my family home, visiting friends, and putting my feet on this soil again," she said in a Twitter post along with a photo of her family standing in the garden of their old home.
The media was barred from accompanying Malala during the visit, but RFE/RL obtained video showing her speaking with a group of men and women standing around her on the lawn in the backyard of her former home.
She also posted pictures of the scenic Swat Valley taken from the helicopter as it approached Mingora.
During her meetings with neighbors, friends, and relatives, Malala was accompanied by Pakistani Information Minister Maryam Aurangzeb.
She also paid a visit to the all-boys Swat Cadet College Guli Bagh outside Mingora, writing in the guest book that "I have never felt so happy. I am proud of my land and culture. The Cadet College is beautiful and I thank the staff and principal for welcoming me."
She told students at the college, "Peace has been restored in the country due to sacrifices of security forces."
She then returned to Islamabad, where she met with human rights activists.
Malala's trip to her hometown came two days after she returned to Pakistan for the first time since she was shot in the head on her school bus by Taliban gunmen because she campaigned for the education of girls, which the militant extremist group opposes.
Malala, who was 15 at the time of the attack, was subsequently taken to England for treatment. She remained there, enrolling at Oxford University in August 2017 and has resumed her fight for the cause that earned her the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.
Malala first came into the spotlight as a schoolgirl, when she started writing a diary of her life under Taliban rule.
She strongly advocated education through her diary, which was written under the pseudonym "Gul Mukai" and featured on BBC Urdu.
There had been questions about whether Malala would visit the Swat Valley during her planned four-day trip due to security concerns.
With reporting by AP, Reuters, AFP, Geo TV, and The New York Times