TALIBAN militants have tried to trick a six-year-old Afghan boy into being a suicide bomber by telling him to wear a vest that "would spray out flowers" when he pressed a button after throwing himself at American soldiers.
Juma Gul, who collects scrap metal for money, told Afghan tribal leaders and US soldiers that militants cornered him in the Taliban-controlled district in southern Afghanistan's Ghanzi province.
"When they first put the vest on my body I didn't know what to think, but then I felt the bomb, "Juma told Associated Press.
"After I figured out it was a bomb, I went to the Afghan soldiers for help."
Juma said he was scared when he was surrounded by the Taliban fighters, and cupped his hands together to show the size of the bomb beore running his hands along his waist to show where it was on his body, Associated Press reported.
The Taliban has dismissed the story as propaganda, but both Afghan elders and US soldiers are convinced Juma's story is true.
Local government leaders have also backed Juma's account. Chief administrator for Juma's village of Athul, Abdul Rahim Deciwal, took Juma to a meeting between Afghan elders and US Army Col. Martin Schweitzer.
Col. Schweitzer called the Taliban's attempt "a cowardly act."
"I think the boy is intelligent," Col. Deciwal said.
"When he comes from the enemy he found a checkpoint of the ANA (Afghan National Army), and he asked the ANA: 'Hey, can you help me? Somebody gave me this jacket and I don't know what's inside but maybe something bad'."
A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, said the group did not use child fighters, and said it had hundreds of adults ready for suicide missions.
"We don't need to use a child,'' Ahmadi said.
"It's against Islamic law, it's against humanitarian law. This is just propaganda against the Taliban.''
However, a Taliban video that surfaced in April showed militants instructing a boy of about 12 as he beheaded an alleged traitor with a large knife, which UN officials condemned as a war crime.
With Associated Press