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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 May, 2004, 11:24 GMT 12:24 UK
'Teen martyr recruiter' charged
Photographers crowd around Hussem Abdo after he was caught with explosives at Hawara checkpoint
The case of Hussam Abdo caused shock and disbelief
An Israeli military court has charged a 15-year-old Palestinian for allegedly recruiting young suicide bombers.

The court said Nasser Awartani had personally recruited two teenagers, one who blew himself up at a checkpoint and another who was caught with a bomb.

He is alleged to be the key contact between teenagers in the West Bank city of Nablus and two militant groups.

He took attackers to have haircuts and helped them travel from place to place undetected, the indictment said.

The most highly-publicised attempt that he is alleged to have been involved in was in March, when 16-year-old Hussam Abdo was aprehended wearing a suicide bomb vest at Hawara checkpoint outside Nablus.

12 charges including:
Attempted murder
Conspiracy to murder
Membership of militant group
(Charges carry maximum penalty of life in prison)
The incident was caught on TV cameras and broadcast around the world.

Four months earlier, 16-year-old Sabih Abu Saud became the youngest suicide bomber since the beginning of the 2000 Palestinian uprising, or intifada.

Nasser Awartani was allegedly photographed with him before the attack.

Abu Saud blew himself up near Qalqilya as he ran at a group of soldiers, but he was the only casualty.


Nasser's mother, Ihlas Awartani, said he was innocent and was being made a scapegoat by Israel.

"They want to blame someone, so they have chosen my son," she is quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency.

Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades claimed responsibility for Sabih Abu Saud's operation.

They were also initially reported to have claimed the Hawara incident, but later condemned it and accused Israel of fabricating it.

Many Palestinians are critical of militant groups that have tried to recruit younger suicide bombers so that they can evade Israeli security checks more easily.

Other attacks allegedly involving Nasser Awartani were either thwarted in the planning stages or the recruits did not carry them out, according to the charge sheet.

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

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