Italy bus attack: Boy, 13, hailed a hero for saving classmates by concealing phone from school bus hijacker

Sean Morrison

One of the children caught up in a horrific attack on a school bus in Milan has been hailed a hero by his classmates for saving everyone on board.

Ramy Shehata, 13, hid his phone when the alleged hijacker was confiscating them from other students on the bus, which was set alight with 51 children on board.

The youngster, whose family are from Egypt, made a call to his father while pretending to pray in Arabic, Italian media reported. The police were then phoned.

After officers arrived, the suspect allegedly doused the vehicle with an inflammable liquid and reportedly shouted: “Nobody gets off here alive.”

Forensic police and firefighters work by the wreckage of the school bus (AFP/Getty Images)

The bus, which had been travelling from the city of Cremona in Lombardy, went up in flames but the police managed to get all passengers off.

Ramy's father, who immigrated in 2001, told Ansa news agency that his son was born in Italy in 2005 but was never issued official citizenship documentation.

"My son did his duty, it would be nice if he got Italian citizenship now," he told Ansa. "We would love to stay in this country. When I met him yesterday I hugged him hard."

Ramy Shehata, centre, a middle school student who called his father and told him to alert police amid the alleged hijacking (EPA)

The leader of Italy's 5-Star Movement called for the teenager to be awarded speedy citizenship after his classmates hailed him as a hero for his move to alert police.

Ramy "put his life at risk to save that of his classmates," Luigi Di Maio said on Facebook, adding that he would ask Italy's premier to confer citizenship for special merit.

Law enforcement officers stopped the bus that had travelled 25 miles from the province of Cremona to Milan, freeing the 51 middle school students and their chaperones as the driver set the bus on fire. No one was seriously injured.

Ansa reported that the Interior Ministry was speeding up the citizenship request for the boy while looking to revoke the citizenship of the alleged bus driver, Ousseynou Sy, a 47-year-old Senegalese immigrant who became an Italian citizen in 2004.

Sy was being held on suspicion of kidnapping, intending to commit a massacre, arson, resisting law enforcement with an aggravating circumstance of terrorism.

Prosecutors said there were no indications that Sy was radicalised or had ties to Islamic terrorists, but said he claimed the kidnapping was to draw attention to migrant deaths in the Mediterranean Sea.

Agencies contributed to this report