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'Heroic' student killed stopping suicide bomber at high school in Pakistan

Handout / NBC News

Aitazaz Hassan is being hailed as a hero in his hometown after the Pakistani teenager sacrificed his life to save others, tackling a suicide bomber outside his school.

PESHAWAR, Pakistan - Tributes were paid Thursday to a high school student who officials say foiled a suicide bomb attack in an act of “bravery” that cost him his life.

Aitazaz Hassan, 17, was killed instantly - but police and school officials said the lives of up to 1,500 other students at the school in Pakistan had been saved.

"My son did a heroic job and I am proud of his bravery,” said the boy’s grieving father, Mujahid Ali.

The teenager challenged the would-be bomber at the school entrance, said Lal Baz Ali, principal of the state-run Ibrahimzai High School, in the Hangu district of Pakistan’s volatile Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region.

After a “physical” scuffle, the bomber – wearing a jacket carrying about 13 pounds of explosives – detonated the device, killing the teenager instantly. 

“It would have been terrible had he succeeded entering the school building,” Lal Baz told NBC News by telephone.

Tributes were paid to the boy on social media Thursday, with the hashtag #onemillionaitzazs trending on Twitter in Pakistan and elsewhere.

An anti-Shia sectarian militant organization, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, claimed responsibility for Monday’s botched attack, in an area close to the Afghan border. It is thought Shia students at the school were the intended targets.

Lal Baz said Hassan was a brave, polite and talented student – and that the school was proud of his actions.

He said Hassan noticed when the bomber arrived in a car and began walking towards the school building.

“The bomber was dressed in school uniform and asked Aitazaz Hassan about school. He asked him why he wanted to enter the school, he told him he wanted to see the principal and that got Aitazaz suspicious and he engaged in a physical clash with him,” the teacher recalled.

Basit Shah / AFP - Getty Images

Pakistani security personnel examine the site of a suicide bombing in the Ibrahimzai area of Hangu district on Monday.

Hangu police chief, Iftikhar Ahmad, said the teenager sacrificed his life but saved up to 1,500 other students and teacher.

The boy’s father, Mujahid Ali, was working overseas as a laborer in the Qatari capital, Doha, at the time of the attack. He has since returned to his grieving family.

He said not a single government official or minister has visited the family or telephoned to offer condolences.

“I would be happier if the government named the school after him, to give a credit to his sacrifice,” Ali said.

He added that Aitazaz’s mother, elder brother, Mujtaba Hasan, 28, and two sisters were still mourning the death.