Child bomber wanted to meet 72 virgins in paradise after being mocked at school

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The Independent Online

The would-be suicide bomber foiled by Israeli soldiers at an army checkpoint was depicted yesterday as an impressionable 16-year-old who claimed in detention that he had been mocked at school for being an "ugly dwarf" and wanted to reach paradise to "meet the 72 virgins there".

A sad but complex picture of a playful if under-achieving adolescent increasingly drawn to militant factions began to emerge yesterday as his shocked family tried to absorb the fact that Husam Abduh had been recruited to kill himself and soldiers at the Hawara checkpoint outside Nablus.

Still hanging on his bedroom wall were pictures of two leading local militants, Muhammad Hambali, of Hamas, and Marzen Fraitah, who was killed by Israeli forces last year after he murdered an Israeli officer.

A classmate, Ibrahim Khalil, 16, spoke of him as a boy who did not like to study and "always laughs" but also one who supported "all types of resistance to liberate Palestine". Another boy, Ahmed Ayed, 13, said he had distributed sweets to neighbourhood children the day before.

His father, a grocer, Muhammad Abduh, 54, said his son had a tendency to truancy. "He likes to play. He was good before the intifada. He is too young. Those who sent him, they are shameless. How they can send a young boy like him. The one who did it, he should go himself. God will not accept this. A person who does such an attack should be an adult."

But the boy's aunt, Iman 35, said: "The Palestinian children do not enjoy their childhood. They are raised up in watching shooting, murder, killing, destruction, house demolition. They suffer from poverty. The cancer of the occupation is destroying their lives." Although acknowledging that the boy was too young to have been a martyr, she added defiantly: "I am very proud of him. Every Arab, every Muslim should be proud of him."

In an interview in the newspaperYediot Aharonot, which was granted access to the boy by his Israeli captors, Husam says: "On Tuesday night I sat with friends, and then I made the decision. When they put the bomb belt on me, I was afraid. I didn't tell anyone what I was going to do. I didn't tell my mother or my father. When I got to the roadblock I was less and less afraid. But when the soldiers stopped me I didn't press the switch. I changed my mind. I didn't want to die any more. I took the battery out of the bomb belt."

The boy, who is from the Makhifya neighbourhood of Nablus and is notably small for his age, was asked how he knew what awaited him in paradise. "The teacher in school told us. He told us to fast, pray and do good deeds in order to reach paradise. He told us about the life of pleasure that waits there: a river of honey, a river of wine and 72 virgins. Since I have been studying Koran I know about the sweet life that waits there."

He added: "My friends at school make fun of me. They call me smart but at the same time they make fun of me because I am short and not good-looking. They call me 'the ugly dwarf'. They hurt me so much that I wanted to killed myself."

According to the newspaper he wept for the first time in the interview when he was asked what he thought about while on his mission. He replied: "About my mother. When she is angry she feels unwell and becomes sick. My mother is probably angry and upset."

The age of the boy was finally clarified when the parents named his birth date as December 5 1987. The Army had originally said he was 10 and he was described on Wednesday as 14 ­ the age he gave after his detention. The family said Husam had acted strangely on Tuesday, getting his hair cut in a style his mother, Tamam, liked and telling her he would do anything she wanted. When she said to him about this, and his handing out of sweets to his family and neighbours: "You never are like this. What happened?" he replied: "I just want you to be happy with me." His mother said "I do not know those who sent him. I appeal to them to send adults and teenagers. The adults know what they are doing."

Husam's sister, Shireen Abdu, 21 said "he likes to sing. All his songs are sad". She said that Mustafa Kamel, an Egyptian, was his favourite singer. She said "Thank God that he is not a martyr. I am not happy because he is too young to do such an attack." She added: "Palestinians have no other choice but to continue the suicide bombings. We have no weapons."

Hosni Abdu, Husam's brother, said he was angry with whoever persuaded his brother to become a suicide bomber. "The ones who sent him are stupid, because the army will give him two slaps and he will tell them who sent him." The family said that four of Husam's classmates, and another man from the Balata camp had been arrested since Husam's detention.