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Last Updated: Friday, 16 July, 2004, 09:18 GMT 10:18 UK
Boy bomber speaks about mission
By Paul Wood
BBC Middle East correspondent

Hussam Abdo is shown to photographers after being arrested at an Israeli checkpoint
Hussam was arrested at the checkpoint four months ago
A Palestinian boy arrested with a bomb strapped to his chest wanted to become a suicide bomber to avenge the death of a friend - and be relieved of school.

Hussam Abdo, who was 15 at the time, told the BBC that his parents would not have allowed him to leave the house if they knew what he was going to do.

He was stopped by Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint in the West Bank.

They forced him to cut off his belt, which contained nearly 9kg of explosives and nails.

Video footage of his arrest was shown around the world.

The reason was because my friend was killed. The second reason I did it is because I didn't want to go to school
Hussam Abdo

It was one of the iconic moments of the al-Aqsa intifada - an Israeli checkpoint outside Nablus on a bright cold afternoon in March, alone in the middle of the road, the slight figure of 15-year-old Hussam Abdo is quivering with fear.

Israeli paratroopers point their assault rifles and scream at him to take off his belt of explosives.

Faltering, fumbling, after an agonising few minutes he complies.

The 8kg of explosives and nails are pulled from underneath his red jumper.

His suicide mission is aborted.

Nightmare

The BBC has been allowed to visit him in prison to hear his account of what happened.

It had begun at 0600 that morning after he had said a prayer and kissed his mother goodbye, telling her he was going to school as usual.

Instead he met some men from the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades who photographed him for his martyr's poster, fitted him with a bomb belt and despatched him to Israel - the nightmare of many Palestinian mothers.

"If I had told my mother she wouldn't have let me leave the house," he said.

"She would have yelled at me, cried and told me not to do it."

He added: "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 anything."

Israeli security officials say Hussam was a scared adolescent who did not know what he was doing - one of the increasing number of teenagers, especially from Nablus, bullied or tricked into seeking heroic martyrdom by cynical members of the militant groups.

Israel accuses the Palestinians - from Yasser Arafat on down - of creating a cult of death.

Many Palestinians however, say that suicide bombers are a symptom of the despair and desperation felt by the whole community.

Whatever the truth, there is no shortage of other teenagers in the occupied territories who wish to take the mission that Hussam Abdo failed to complete.




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