ABC Team Stabilized After Iraq Convoy Hit

By Jonathan Finer
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, January 30, 2006

BAGHDAD, Jan. 29 -- A co-anchor of ABC's "World News Tonight" and an ABC cameraman suffered serious head wounds Sunday in a roadside bomb attack in Taji, north of Baghdad. They were stabilized at a military hospital and were later flown to Germany for further medical care, the network said in a statement.

Bob Woodruff, 44, who took over the anchor duties for the weeknight broadcast earlier this month, and cameraman Doug Vogt were embedded with the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division but were traveling with an Iraqi unit in an Iraqi vehicle when the explosion occurred, ABC News President David Westin said in a statement. An Iraqi soldier was also wounded in the attack, which took place at 12:25 p.m., the U.S. military reported.

ABC News said on its Web site that both Woodruff and Vogt were partially exposed because they were standing in the vehicle's hatch. They both suffered head injuries, and Woodruff also suffered wounds to his upper body, the network said. They were flown to Baghdad's fortified Green Zone and then to a hospital on a U.S. base in Balad, northwest of the capital, where both underwent lengthy surgeries that stabilized their conditions.

"We take this as good news, but the next few days will be critical," Westin said. The injured journalists were later flown to a U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany.

Before the attack, Woodruff and Vogt, part of a four-man ABC team, had switched from an American Humvee to the Iraqi vehicle. The ABC crew was riding in the lead vehicle in a U.S.-Iraqi convoy at the time of the explosion, which was followed by small-arms fire, the network reported. The journalists were wearing body armor, helmets and ballistic glasses.

According to a U.S. military official who was briefed on the incident but spoke on the condition of anonymity, the attack came as they rode in a Soviet-made MT-LB armored personnel carrier, a 12-ton vehicle that can carry about a dozen soldiers. It is described as "lightly armored" on the Web site of the Federation of American Scientists, which catalogues the specifications of military equipment. The armor in its turret is said to be seven to 14 millimeters thick.

"It looks like what got them was standing up in the turret," the military official said, adding that doing so was less safe but not unusual. "Another guy inside didn't have a scratch on him."

Woodruff, who anchors "World News Tonight" with Elizabeth Vargas, is an experienced war correspondent who has reported from the former Yugoslavia and Afghanistan and was embedded with a Marine reconnaissance unit during the invasion of Iraq. A Michigan native, he has four children.

Vogt, a Canadian, has 25 years of experience, is a three-time Emmy Award winner and is now based in Europe, according to a biography posted on a Web site devoted to photojournalists.

The incident was one of several attacks that killed more than a dozen people Sunday across Iraq, including at least three in a series of apparently coordinated bombings targeting churches in the northern city of Kirkuk. Nearly simultaneous explosions at two churches in Baghdad and at the Vatican Embassy in the Iraqi capital caused only minor injuries.

In Kirkuk, insurgents detonated a car bomb near the city's Orthodox Church during a Sunday afternoon Mass, according to Gen. Burhan Tayyib of the Iraqi police. The explosion killed one civilian and wounded five. Ten minutes later, a second explosion targeted the Virgin Mary Church for the Chaldeans, killing two and wounding seven.

Tayyib said the attacks were "a message from the terrorists to create sectarian strife."

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