Fallujah, Iraq - A 10-year-old Iraqi boy allegedly recruited by al-Qaeda was about to blow himself in a suicide attack on Wednesday just east of Fallujah when police spotted and arrested him, a senior officer said.
The incident occurred near a police checkpoint in Amariyat Al-Fallujah, a village 15 kilometres east of the former Sunni rebel bastion of Fallujah and due west of Baghdad, said Captain Anas al-Issawi.
"The 10-year-old boy had been used by al-Qaeda in the past to place bombs," Issawi said, adding that the child disappeared from his family home in Amariyat Al-Fallujah four days ago.
"Three men aboard a van drove him to the isolated village of Shitsher (75 kilometres west of Baghdad) to prepare him for the suicide operation," the officer said, quoting the boy's own testimony.
Wednesday morning the men helped the boy don an explosives-rigged vest under the traditional dishdasha (long robe) and drove him at dawn to the outskirts of Amariyat Al-Fallujah.
They instructed him to blow himself up as soon as the place began milling with people, the officer said, quoting the boy's testimony.
"The boy said he followed the instructions and when he saw people gather he approached them (ready to blow himself up) but a policeman saw him and shouted for him to go away.
"He panicked and fled but we caught up with him and found that he was wearing an explosives vest," the officer added.
The boy, whose identity was not revealed, gave the police information about the van which the al-Qaeda suspects drove and three of them were arrested, Issawi said.
The security situation in Fallujah, once a hotbed of Sunni insurgency, has improved dramatically although militants still carry out sporadic attacks.
Since 2006, Sunni tribesmen and former rebels have joined forces with the US military against al-Qaeda, slashing the jihadists' presence in the western region. - Sapa-AFP