A Pakistani teen is being hailed a hero after tackling a suicide bomber that was targeting his school last week. Aitzaz Hassan Bangash confronted a man wearing a suicide vest in spite of pleas from his friends not to do so, and the man detonated the vest when Aitzaz tackled him.
The teen’s age has been pegged at anywhere from 14 to 17, according to various reports, and school officials said they saw Aitzaz chasing the suicide bomber moments before the teen tackled him and the vest was detonated.
There were some 2,000 students in attendance at the school at the time of the attack. The teen’s death has resulted in a tidal wave of response on social media, with hundreds saying the teen should get the nation’s highest honor for his bravery, the Nishan-i-Haider.
The school in northwestern Pakistan will be renamed for the young man as a way of honoring his bravery. The boy’s actions meant that several students were saved; only he and the suicide bomber died when the vest was detonated. Two others were injured.
The school is in Ibrahimzai, a Shia-dominated area of Hangu province in northwestern Pakistan. The Pakistani teen being hailed as a hero after tackling a suicide bomber was also saluted in a provincial assembly session as well. Aitzaz was from Hangu, and the province’s chief minister of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government. Parvaiz Khattak said the teen was able to save an untold number of students due to his bravery.
Hangu is rife with violence against Shia Muslims, and the region is also close to the country’s tribal regions that have a strong Taliban and al-Qaeda presence. Located in northwestern Pakistan, the province has endured a fair share of violence over the last few months.
Aitzaz’s cousin Mudassar Hassan Bangash says that Aitzaz ignored the pleas of his friends to leave the suicide bomber alone. According to reports, the man approached the front gate of the school dressed in a school uniform. Aitzaz decided to confront him, saying that the man was there to kill his friends and he wasn’t going to let that happen.
Mujahid Ali, the teen’s father, is grieving, but understandably proud of his son’s actions. He says the boy may have made his mother cry by sacrificing himself to save others, but he was a shahid – a martyr – due to his bravery.
Representatives of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government visited Ali’s home on January 13, offering the family a 5 million rupee ($47,445 US) package and informing them of their decision to rename the school Aitzaz Hassan Shaheed School in the teen’s honor.
The International Human Rights Commission (IHRC) has also acknowledged the sacrifice of the young teen. The first Gallantry Award has been awarded posthumously to Aitzaz Hassan for his successful attempt in stopping a suicide attack that, by all accounts, would have ended in disaster if the suicide bomber had made his way to his target.
The Pakistani teen hailed as a hero after tackling a suicide bomber is being widely acknowledged as a martyr, and his father Ali says he’s bursting with pride. In fact, he has said he is willing to sacrifice his youngest son if it means that it would help end the violence in the region, as the Pakistani teen hero did.
By Christina St-Jean