Wasil Ahmad, 12-year-old 'hero' of Uruzgan siege, gunned down by Afghan Taliban

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KABUL, Afghanistan — A 12-year-old boy hailed as a hero for defending his village from the Taliban was shot dead in what appeared to be a targeted assassination by the group, Afghan officials said Wednesday.

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Wasil Ahmad was feted at a public ceremony for playing a key role in defending the community of Dan Sango, in the southern province of Khas Uruzgan, during a 2-month-long Taliban siege last year.

Pictures of him wearing full military uniform were circulated on social media after the siege was broken by Afghan Special Forces in August 2015.

See reactions to Ahmad's murder from social media:

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10 year old Afghan hero gunned down by Taliban
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Wasil Ahmad, 12-year-old 'hero' of Uruzgan siege, gunned down by Afghan Taliban
The Afghan government declared Wasil Ahmad a hero, then the Taliban killed him. He was 10. https://t.co/DlEMFxzUXl https://t.co/wZ6zu1yLrG
Wasil Ahmad, 12-Year-Old Hero Who Defended His Afghan Village From Taliban Attack,… https://t.co/TsyRSp2WC5 https://t.co/btfUEt1hhh
Wasil Ahmad is dead. I hope we learn something from him. https://t.co/JoMzoDk2NT https://t.co/LT9g8KcK8a
The Afghan gov paraded him as a hero. The Taliban shot him as a"stooge". He was 10-yrs old. https://t.co/z7Trsbj0IS https://t.co/0eVSHniZP0
The Hero kid of #Afghanistan who fought Taliban is assassinated. God bless the little soul of #WasilAhmad . Love you https://t.co/8DeqsCc4Am
Wasil Ahmad, a little child. #Taliban killed with fanfare just for him being brave. #Afghanistan https://t.co/4yAxIc8CX2
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Since then, the boy carried a pistol to school — but did not have the chance to use it Monday when a gunman shot him twice in the head and chest as he bought groceries from a local shop in the provincial capital of Terin Kot.

Wasil was airlifted to Kandahar where he was pronounced dead, according to provincial police chief Gen. Ghulam Sakhi Roghlewanai who said the shooting appeared to be targeted.

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"He was a hero and will remain a hero," Roghlewanai said. "Unfortunately he died too early for his age."

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the killing in a short statement issued Monday that called the boy "a stooge militiaman."

The use of child combatants is widespread in Afghanistan among both the national forces and the Taliban.

After a former U.S. Special Forces captain spoke out last year over abuse of children in the ranks of the Afghan forces, the country's president Ashraf Ghani pledged to tackle the "intolerable" problem.

Wasil's bravery came after his father was killed three years ago in another gun battle with the Taliban, his uncle told NBC News.

"When his father was killed he was only 8 or 9 and he said that he would pick up his gun and take revenge," Abdul Samad said.

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He did not have to wait long for that opportunity. The village came under heavy Taliban attack in early June of last year. In the ensuing siege, Wasil saw one of his uncles killed along with 17 other local militiamen.

"He took charge of the group defending the village, he was the main point of contact through radio communications and actively coordinated the rescue operation by Special Forces," said Gen. Toryalai Abdyani, who was the chief of police for the province at the time.

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