BEIRUT: Sobbing and terrified, the young boy stood motionless as Iraqi police officers carefully stripped him to his waist. Beneath the 14-year-old's Barcelona football shirt, so large on him it reached down to his knees, was a bomb strapped to his stomach.
Footage captured by a local television station showed the moment a would-be Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) child suicide bomber was apprehended, seconds before he was able to detonate his explosives belt. Once free of the device, the boy was moved away from the cameras and into a police van to be taken for questioning.
It was reported that he was trying to attack a Shia mosque in the Iraqi city of Kirkuk, which was hit by two other suicide attacks over the weekend.
"The boy claimed during interrogation that he had been kidnapped by masked men who put the explosives on him and sent him to the area," said Brig Chato Fadhil Humadi, a Kirkuk intelligence official.
He said the child had been displaced from the Isil-held city of Mosul, Iraq's second largest, by recent military operations in the area.
Officials suggested he may have been drugged before being sent on his mission against his will by Isil commanders.
The boy's arrest came less than 24 hours after another child suicide bomber killed at least 51 people and injured 100 more at a wedding party in Turkey.
It emerged yesterday (Monday) that at least 22 of the victims in the south-eastern Turkish city of Gaziantep were under 14 years old - the same age the bomber was thought to be.
Investigators said the device was identical to the type used in an attack carried out last year in the capital of Ankara, which was blamed on Isil.
If confirmed, it would mark the first time Isil has used a child suicide bomber in the European country, a worrying development in the fight against the terrorist group.
The jihadists have a history of using children as weapons, however, sending them to their death strapped with explosives and putting them on front lines in Iraq and Syria.
Unicef, the UN children's agency, says thousands of children have been abducted in Iraq, forced into becoming combatants or suicide bombers.
A report released earlier this year by Combating Terrorism Centre at West Point university in New York found 89 children died fighting for Isil last year. Figures from earlier this year appeared to show the use of child suicide bombers was rising.
In one of the most deadly recent examples, a teenager detonated a suicide vest at a youth football game at a stadium in Baghdad. Nearly half of the 29 victims were boys under the age of 16.
The group maintains an army of child soldiers, which it calls "cubs of the caliphate", and seeks to re-educate children at Isil-run schools, indoctrinating them with the group's own radical version of Islam and exposing them to violent acts.
But while some are brainwashed, others are simply bribed with money or even forced at gunpoint into carrying out orders.
In the Iraqi town of Mufti, south of Mosul and west of Kirkuk, one 15-year-old fighter who was captured by Kurdish Peshmerga forces told The Daily Telegraph in June that he had been a student training to be a traffic policeman in Mosul when Isil commanders picked him up.
He said he was offered 60,000 Iraqi dinars (pounds 40) and a gas canister to go and defend the town.
"We had little choice," he said. "If you don't do exactly what they say, they will kill you."
He was found hiding in a tunnel with few supplies and a suicide vest strapped to his chest.
Isil is increasingly having to rely on child recruits as they face mounting losses on the battlefield.
Military officials, including from the US-led coalition fighting Isil, have said the group is increasingly resorting to under-age fighters as a string of defeats and setbacks stretches its ranks to their limit.
As many as 50,000 fighters are thought to have been killed in air strikes and counter-offensives on its territory across Syria and Iraq. US-backed Iraqi and Kurdish forces are closing in on Mosul, the largest city under the group's control. A defeat there would be the biggest loss to Isil since it established its so-called caliphate in 2014.
"Children are deemed crucial in Isil's art of war, ensuring a future generation of militants," said Rachel Bryson, researcher at the Centre on Religion and Geopolitics and author of a paper on the "cubs of the caliphate". In areas under Isil control, the very nature of education has been abused in order to indoctrinate children into its violent practices.
Ms Bryson said they were enrolled from an early age, exposed to "venomous" ideology, and instructed on how to fight, kill and attack.
"The group uses children as they are almost of unlimited supply in war. Children are also used for psychological value, arousing fear that Isil is a fully functioning state, fuelling a multi-generational war," she said.
u?A British man has been killed in the Iraqi city of Ramadi, where a US company is clearing mines left by Isil when the city was retaken in December, the British embassy in Baghdad said yesterday.
"The British embassy is aware that there has been a British national killed in Ramadi," the statement said, giving no further details. Janus Global Operations has Western contractors working with Iraqis de-mining roads and buildings in Ramadi, around 62 miles west of Baghdad. Company officials were not immediately available to comment.