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Last Updated: Friday, 16 July, 2004, 10:13 GMT 11:13 UK
'Nobody is going to live forever'

By James Reynolds
BBC Jerusalem correspondent

It was an unforgettable image. A teenager standing alone at a checkpoint, explosives strapped to his chest, confused, trying to follow Israeli orders to get him to dismantle his bomb.

That afternoon, in March 2004, 15-year-old Hussam Abdo took up his own small place in the imagery of this conflict.

Hussam Abdo
I thank God that the operation didn't go through. God doesn't want me to die
Hussam Abdo
Since his arrest he has been in an Israeli prison.

We were let inside a high security jail in the north of the country and told to wait in a meeting room.

Minutes later, Hussam Abdo was brought in to see us.

He was wearing a brown prison uniform and handcuffs. He was tiny - he didn't even reach my shoulder.

He sat down, smiled and talked readily. A prison guard sat at the end of the room watching our conversation.

Below is a transcript of the interview:

James Reynolds: Everyone saw the TV pictures of you at the checkpoint that day. Can you tell me what you did that day?

Hussam Abdo is shown to photographers after being arrested at an Israeli checkpoint
Hussam was arrested at the checkpoint four months ago
Hussam Abdo: In the morning at 6am I prayed and kissed my mother goodbye and told her I was going to school.

Then I went to my friend's house at 6am.

He took me to some guys in Nablus. I sat with them and spoke to them. And then they took pictures of me and put on the bomb belt.

And then I went off to the checkpoint. I got to the checkpoint at 1pm.

The army caught me at 1.30pm. I stayed with the soldiers at the checkpoint till 9pm and then they took me to the military base.

JR: When you went out with your bomb belt what was your target?

Hussam: They told me to go to a checkpoint. They told me you blow yourself up at the checkpoint.

They showed me a videotape of it.

JR: When you put on that belt did you really know - as a 15-year-old - that you were going to go and murder people, that you were going to go and cause great suffering to mothers and fathers, that you were going to be a mass murderer? Did you really know that?

Hussam: Yes. Just like they came and caused our parents sadness and suffering they too should feel this. Just like we feel this - they should also feel it.

JR: Were you excited ?

Hussam's mother, Tamam Abdo
I prayed and kissed my mother goodbye and told her I was going to school
Hussam: I was a little bit nervous. But not to the point that I was very scared. I was kind of normal.

JR: Were you scared of dying?

Hussam: No. I'm not afraid of death.

JR: Why not?

Hussam: Nobody is going to live forever. We're all going to die.

JR: But you were only 15 years old at the time.

Hussam: I wanted to be relieved of school.

JR: When the army caught you, how did you feel?

Hussam: I was a bit scared. The soldiers came to me and there were many of them so I was a bit scared.

I was afraid that they would beat me but I wasn't afraid that they'd shoot me.

They were nice to me - they treated me well.

JR: Are you sad that you didn't manage to blow yourself up and kill many Israelis?

Hussam: I feel normal. But I thank God that the operation didn't go through.

JR: You thank God that you didn't die - why?

Hussam: It's just the way it is. God doesn't want me to die.

JR: Who sent you?

Hussam: My friend Nasser. He's 16. He was my classmate.

JR: How did he tell you about it?

Hussam: I was sitting with a friend of mine and he comes to me and says can you find me a martyr bomber?

Hussam Abdo with Israeli soldiers
The soldiers came to me and there were many of them so I was a bit scared
Then I told him I'll do it. My friend says - really? And I answer - yes I'll do it.

So he agreed and he took me to see another guy.

The guy's name was Wael. He was from Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades. He was 21.

Then he took me to another guy who put the bomb belt on me and they took pictures of me.

The pictures were on the day before. Of course he asked me a lot of questions.

He asked me who I was and why I wanted to do this. I answered all of his questions. I told him I wanted to do it because of my friend who was killed and he agreed to let me do it.

JR: Did the people who sent you - the people from the Al Aqsa Brigades - did they promise you anything?

Hussam: Of course they did. They told me, once you carry out the operation and the soldiers come and demolish your home, we'll stand by your parents and rebuild your house and give them money.

JR: What are your feelings towards the people who sent you?

Hussam: I feel normal. One of them is my friend and he will stay my friend because, just like, me he's also in prison.

JR: Did you ever talk to your family about what you were going to do?

Hussam: I didn't tell my parents.

JR: Why not?

Hussam: Because if I'd told my mother she wouldn't have let me leave the house.

She'd have yelled at me, cried and told me not to do it.

JR: Have you spoken to them since your arrest?

Hussam: I spoke to them shortly after I was arrested. I was at the army base and the doctor there was checking me and I told him I wanted to speak to my mother, so he lent me his mobile phone.

The first reason I became a suicide bomber was because my friend was killed. The second reason I did it is because I didn't want to go to school
He let me speak to my mother. She began to cry - she'd seen what happened on TV.

Then the doctor took the phone away from me and he spoke to my mother.

He said don't worry about your son, he's fine, we'll take care of him.

JR: How did you feel when you spoke to your mother?

Hussam: I felt relieved.

JR: Some teenagers want to be footballers, others want to be singers. You wanted to be a suicide bomber. Why?

Hussam: It's not suicide - it's martyrdom.

I would become a martyr and go to my God. It's better than being a singer or a footballer. It's better than everything.

JR: What was the main reason for you deciding to become a suicide bomber? The one reason in particular.

Hussam: The reason was because my friend was killed.

The second reason I did it is because I didn't want to go to school.

My parents forced me to go to school and I didn't feel like going.

JR: Are you saying that one of the reasons you wanted to become a suicide bomber was because you didn't like your teacher?

Hussam: That and because of my friend Sabih, who was killed.

JR: It seems extreme that if you don't like your teacher it could partially propel you towards murder and suicide.

Photographers and journalists scramble to speak to Hussam Abdo
Martyrdom is better than being a singer or a footballer. It's better than everything
Hussam: The thing is my parents forced me to go to school and I didn't want to go.

So I used to go there and run away. Then I had problems with the teachers. The principal took me to the police because I got into a fight with the teachers.

JR: Let's say there's another kid your age - 15 or 16 - and he wanted to go and blow himself up and kill Israelis. Would you stop him?

Hussam: I would stop him because if he got caught he would go to prison and it's not a nice place and he shouldn't be away from his parents.

JR: If you could turn back time and go back to that morning would you do it again?

Hussam: No.

JR: You wouldn't do it again? Why not?

Hussam: Because of prison. And also in the end there'll be peace.

JR: You really think in the end there will be peace?

Hussam: Yes.

JR: Do you know how long you will be here in an Israeli prison?

Hussam: The lawyer told me two-three years.

JR: What do you want to do with your life when you get out of prison?

Hussam: I want to go home and be with my parents and work in my father's shop.

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