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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 March, 2004, 18:23 GMT
Israeli army arrests 'boy bomber'
Young Palestinian boy apparently wearing suicide bomb belt motions to Israeli soldiers
The boy is now being questioned by Israeli security forces
The Israeli army says it has arrested a young Palestinian boy carrying a suicide bomb belt at a checkpoint between the West Bank and Israel.

The boy, thought to be in his mid-teens, was stopped at a crossing near the town of Nablus wearing the belt.

A spokeswoman said he had been running towards security forces, but stopped when they pointed their guns at him.

Israel has been on high alert since the militant group Hamas vowed to avenge its spiritual leader's death.

Questioning

Israeli soldiers manning the Hawara checkpoint became suspicious after the boy approached them, the Associated Press news agency reported.

The soldiers ordered him to stop at gunpoint, then told him to take off his jacket and cut off the bomb strapped to his chest.

He was then forced to strip off the rest of his clothing before being arrested by the soldiers. The bomb was destroyed by Israeli army sappers.

The boy, identified by family members as Hussam Abdo, is now being questioned by security forces.

It is not clear what militant group, if any, was involved in the incident.

His family told AP that the youth suffered from developmental problems.

"He doesn't know anything and he has intelligence of a 12-year-old," his brother said.

Alert

Earlier this month, a young Palestinian boy was arrested after Israeli forces said they found a bomb inside his bag.

The device was meant to explode as he carried it through a military checkpoint, they said.

The boy was later released by Israeli forces, as they said he did not know what he had been carrying.

Israeli security forces have been on high alert since the killing of Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in an Israeli missile attack on Monday.




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The BBC's Orla Guerin
"The army insist he was a willing and able human bomb"



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