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Boy, 14, stopped with bomb belt
Updated: 2004-03-25 09:06

Israeli troops Wednesday arrested a 14-year-old Palestinian would-be suicide bomber at a West Bank checkpoint after talking him into taking off his explosives vest at gunpoint, the army said.

Hussan Abdu's surrender at Hawara checkpoint, which was televised internationally, came nine days after a Palestinian porter of 12 was detained there on suspicion of trying to smuggle through a bomb and then freed after soldiers determined it was put into the boy's bag without his knowledge.

A Palestinian boy wears an explosive belt as he is caught at the checkpoint at the entrance to the Palestinian West Bank city of Nablus March 24, 2004.  [Reuters]
Palestinian factions have vowed to escalate attacks to avenge Israel's assassination of the Hamas founder Monday. The Israeli checkpoint commander said troops had assumed a safe distance after noticing Abdu acting suspiciously.

"He was taken by surprise by the reflexes of the soldiers, who were very quick and aimed their weapons at him and took cover. He understood the explosion would not be effective as all the troops were already protected," the lieutenant-colonel, who gave his name as Guy, told Israel Radio.

Abdu's mother voiced astonishment at his arrest.

"Hussam left home this morning to school, and this was the first we hear of what happened," Tamam Abdu told Reuters from the family home in Nablus, just north of Hawara. "This is shocking. To use a child like this is irresponsible, forbidden."


There was no claim of responsibility for Abdu's mission from the slew of militant groups waging a Palestinian uprising that erupted in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in September 2000.

Armed members of Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, shown here February 2004, promised an 'unprecedented' response to the assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. [AFP]
Sky television aired footage showing Abdu removing his shirt and then the bulky vest, which had a detonator wire hanging from it, as soldiers and Palestinian passersby watched from behind the concrete barricades. Under orders from an Arabic-speaking soldier, the youth is seen to raise his hands in surrender.

"We passed him a pair of scissors to cut the vest free and then took him in to custody," Guy said. According to an army spokesman, the 18-lb bomb was safely detonated.

Draped in an army greatcoat, Abdu was taken away after troops allowed the press to photograph him. Guy said the youth would be questioned to determined who dispatched him.

Islamic militant group Hamas has led calls for stepped-up attacks against the Jewish state since its founder, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, was assassinated in an Israeli air strike Monday.

Israel accused the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, part of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, of slipping a bomb into the bag carried by the 12-year-old boy detained at Hawara on March 15. The Brigades denied involvement.

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