TOPEKA – About 15 friends of a Wichita State University student who died saving worshipers from a terrorist bombing in Saudi Arabia went to the Capitol on Wednesday to accept a legislative proclamation honoring his courage.
The students came to honor the memory of Abduljaleel Alarbash, 22, a WSU junior killed Friday while he was helping to guard a mosque targeted by a suicide bomber. The radical Islamic State group claimed credit for the attack.
Alarbash, a native of Saudi Arabia, had returned home to get married. Volunteering to help provide security at the mosque, he and a cousin intercepted the bomber, who had dressed as a woman to try to sneak explosives into the crowded worship service.
Although the bomber detonated the device, killing Alarbash, his cousin and two others, their vigilance is credited with saving many more lives among the worshipers.
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On Wednesday, his college friends remembered him as a happy young man who kept up their spirits far from home.
One of his three roommates, Mustafa Alsalamah, said that before Alarbash left for Saudi Arabia, he paid more than his fair share of their living expenses for the previous month as a gift to his friends.
“He was very generous,” Alsalamah said. “He always smiled and joked all the time. Everything that’s good, you would find in his personality.”
“He liked to help people, volunteer a lot on campus and even outside of campus,” said Mohammed Alkhamis, another close friend of Alarbash’s. “He liked bikes, motorcycles; he’d always go around to the city with his motorcycle, and I guess now we’ll be missing that lot of noise.”
The day Alarbash died, the news spread quickly in the tight-knit group of WSU foreign students.
“I kept getting calls from my family, my friends here in Wichita,” Alkhamis said. “Everybody just didn’t know what to do about it, like we were shocked and we were trying to get together. I don’t know why, but I felt like being with the friends and around them, because we all here are like a family, and we lost a member.”
The students said it was overwhelming to stand in the House and Senate while lawmakers honored their friend.
“I almost cried down there,” Alkhamis said. “And I’m really thankful for this appreciation for our friend. We are really sad for losing him, but we are still proud of having him as a hero, as a brother, and we are really proud that we got to know him.”
“It’s a tragic loss of life,” said Rep. Blake Carpenter of Derby, who knows one of the students and read the proclamation in the House on a point of personal privilege.
“He went over there only for a short little while to get married and spend some time with his family,” Carpenter said. “The next thing you know, he’s gone.”
On the Senate side, Wichita Sens. Oletha Faust-Goudeau and Michael O’Donnell carried the proclamation.
Faust-Goudeau represents the area around Wichita State and said she knows several of the students. Alarbash’s death was a shock to the community, she said.
“It put a real face, a human face, on terrorism,” she said. “It’s real, and it’s getting closer and closer around the world. This was close to home, even though it was so far away.”
The college friends are all members of a Saudi Arabian student group called US to US and are planning to go as a group to donate blood and hold a candlelight vigil Friday in their friend’s honor.
The vigil will take place at 5 p.m. in front of the Rhatigan Center student union at WSU.
Reach Dion Lefler at email@example.com.