March 22 (UPI) -- An Egyptian boy who called for help when his school bus was hijacked and set on fire in Italy is being rewarded with expedited citizenship.
Ramy Shehata, 13, fooled the hijacker by telling him he did not have a cellphone, then hid to call his father, pretending to pray in Arabic. His father called police.
None of the 51 children, ages 11 to 13, on the bus were seriously hurt. Their driver, Ousseynou Sy, 47, a Senegal-born Italian citizen, was arrested and faces attempted murder, kidnapping, resisting arrest and arson charges.
Two teachers and an assistant were on the bus as well. Twelve students and two adults were sent to a hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation and burns.
"The driver doused petrol on the bus and threatened to blow it up," Carabinieri spokesman Marco Palmieri said. "He requested all the children's mobile phones -- but one kid managed to hide and called us. Apparently, he told the driver 'I didn't bring my phone today.' You know how canny kids are these days.'"
Sy brandished a knife and yelled, "Stop the deaths at seas. I'll carry out a massacre," authorities said, apparently referring to immigrant drownings in the Mediterranean as they sail to Europe.
The hijacker drove the bus toward Milan, ramming cars along the busy highway until a police roadblock managed to stop him. He then set the bus on fire as police shattered windows to get the passengers to safety.
The office of Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said Ramy saved lives by giving authorities the location of the bus.
"The Interior Ministry is ready to take on the expenses and speed up the procedures to recognize citizenship for the little hero," Salvini said. "The hope is to attribute ... citizenship to Ramy and remove it from the bus driver.
"Ramy called us and had his head down looking through the glass door and was able to read the signs on the road, giving an exact location of where the bus was and where it was going," he added.