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Pakistani schoolboy who died stopping bomber recommended for award

Source: Reuters - Fri, 10 Jan 2014 16:32 GMT
Author: Reuters
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(Updates with prime minister recommending him for an award)

By Jibran Ahmad

PESHAWAR, Pakistan, Jan 10 (Reuters) - A Pakistani schoolboy who died stopping a suicide bomber from attacking his school has been recommended for a national award, the prime minister's office said on Friday.

Aitezaz Hassan, 17, tackled the bomber as he tried to enter a government school in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Hassan and the bomber died but no other students or staff were hurt, police said.

"Though I lost my sweet son I have no regret for what he has done. He has done a heroic job and I am proud of his bravery," Aitezaz's father, Mujahid Ali, told Reuters.

The bomber approached the school with explosives hidden under a school uniform on Monday, but students noticed and started shouting out warnings to stop him.

Aitezaz tackled him head on but the bomb detonated and Aitezaz died of his injuries, said head teacher Azmat Ali.

A Sunni Muslim sectarian group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, claimed responsibility for the attack. The school is in Hangu, a predominantly Shi'ite Muslim area.

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi believe Shi'ites, who make up about 20 percent of Pakistan's 180 million people, are heretics who should be killed.

On Friday, the prime minister's office said it had recommended him for a Sitara-e-Shujaat, or Star of Bravery, award.

"Shaheed (martyr) Aitezaz's brave act saved the lives of hundreds of students and established a sterling example of gallantry and patriotism," the statement said.

Newspapers ran editorials praising his bravery and contrasted it with the government's inaction in the face of militancy.

"For the sake of Aitezaz and all the countless children that have been taken before their time, somebody from the government needs to take a page out of Aitezaz's book and resist terrorists until they can no longer harm Pakistan," the Nation newspaper said in an editorial.

The boy's parents said no government official or politician had contacted them.

Aitezaz's father said authorities could rename the school after him and officially declare him a martyr, a designation that would bring some financial relief to his family.

His mother, brother, and two sisters were mourning Aitezaz but took some comfort in knowing that he had saved many others, the father said.

The number of suicide bomb attacks in Pakistan rose by more than a third to 46 last year, according to a study released earlier this week by the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies.

The same study said that sectarian attacks were becoming more frequent and more deadly. Many Pakistani politicians maintain ties with sectarian groups in return for support at election time. (Writing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Robert Birsel and Ralph Boulton)

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