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Pakistan honours teen who died foiling attack

Student who confronted suicide bomber at his school to receive country's highest award for bravery posthumously.

Last updated: 11 Jan 2014 15:05
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Hassan died in hospital after the bomber blew himself up at the gates of his school [AFP]

A Pakistani teenager who sacrificed his life to stop a suicide bomber, saving the lives of hundreds of students, will be honoured with the country's highest award for bravery.

Aitzaz Hassan, 15, a student in Hangu district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, has become a national hero after tackling the bomber who came to attack his school on Monday while hundreds of students were inside.

Hassan died in hospital after the bomber blew himself up at the school gates. No one else was wounded or killed in the incident.

The office of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said it had advised President Mamnoon Hussain "to approve the conferment of Sitara-e-Shujjat [star of bravery] to Shaheed [martyred] Aitzaz Hassan.

"Shaheed Aitzaz's brave act saved the lives of hundreds of students and established a sterling example of gallantry and patriotism," it said in a statement issued late on Friday.

An official from the prime minister's house told AFP news agency on Saturday that Hassan's family is expected to receive the posthumous award on March 23, Pakistan's national day, following the president's ceremonial approval.

'Bravery and sacrifice'

News of Hassan's act led to an outpouring of tributes on social media. Pakistani newspapers, TV channels and social media sites demanded recognition for Hassan's bravery, calling him a hero who should receive the nation's highest award.

Police said Aitzaz intercepted the bomber 150 metres away from the main gate of the school
Pakistan private TV channel Express News on Saturday broadcast footage from Hassan's village Ibrahimzai, in Hangu district, showing groups of people laying floral wreaths on his grave.

A military statement said Brigadier Nadeem Zaki Manj, local commander in Hangu, visited Hassan's grave and laid a floral wreath on behalf of General Raheel Sharif, the head of Pakistan's army.

"The Nation is proud of this young Hero who has set a sterling example of bravery and sacrifice... he has sacrificed his today for our better tomorrow," the army chief said in a message for Hassan's father.

Several Pakistani TV channels also showed footage of hundreds of students praying for Hassan in the morning school assembly.

"We are proud of him, he saved our lives, we will remember him forever," a student told Express News.

Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai, who survived being shot in the head by the Taliban for championing girls' right to education, paid tribute to the teenager on Friday, describing him as "brave and courageous".

"In sacrificing his own life, Aitzaz protected hundreds of innocent young students from being killed," she said in a statement.

"I wish that in giving his own life he helps to bring peace to my people and my country," she said. 

Hassan's father Mujahid Ali Bangash, 55, told AFP on Thursday he felt not sadness but pride at his son's death.

"Aitzaz has made us proud by valiantly intercepting the bomber and saving the lives of hundreds of his fellow students," he said.

"I am happy that my son has become a martyr by sacrificing his life for a noble cause."

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AFP
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