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23 May 2024

Pakistan father hails teenage son for stopping suicide bomber


The father of a Pakistani teenager killed after tackling a suicide bomber Thursday hailed his son for saving "hundreds" of lives through his bravery.

Aitzaz Hassan, aged around 15, died in hospital after stopping the bomber, who blew himself up, at the gates of his school in the northwestern district of Hangu on Monday.

His father Mujahid Ali Bangash, 55, told AFP 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."

Bangash works in the UAE and was only able to reach Ibrahimzai village, which lies in an area of Hangu dominated by minority Shiite Muslims, the day after his son's funeral.

"Many people are coming to see me but if they try to express sympathy, I tell them to congratulate me instead on becoming the father of a martyr," he said.

"I will be even more than happy if my second son also sacrifices his life for the country."

Police official Shakirullah Bangash told AFP that Aitzaz intercepted the bomber some 150 metres (490 feet) away from the main gate of the school, which has around 1,000 students, most of them Shiite.

The schoolchildren were the target of the attack, he added.

News of Hassan's bravery also led to an outpouring of tributes on social media.

Sherry Rehman, Pakistan's former ambassador to the United States, tweeted: "Hangu's shaheed (martyr) Aitzaz Hasan is Pakistan's pride. Give him a medal at least. Another young one with heartstopping courage #AitzazBraveheart."

Hassan's cousin Mudassir Bangash described him as an accomplished student who excelled in all extracurricular activities.

"Aitzaz was a little plump and we used to call him pehlwan (wrestler)," he told AFP.

"My cousin wanted to become a doctor but it was not God's will."

Hangu borders Orakzai tribal region, one of Pakistan's seven lawless tribal districts on the Afghan border considered to be the hub of Taliban and Al-Qaeda linked militants.

The district has a history of sectarian violence and was declared a "sensitive region" during the month of Moharram, considered especially holy by Shiites.

Pakistan is rife with sectarian clashes, with Sunni militant groups linked to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban often attacking gatherings by Shiites, who constitute some 20 percent of the country's population.