By Nelson Hernandez and Salih Saif Aldin
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
BAGHDAD, May 29 -- A car bomb explosion in central Baghdad Monday killed two CBS News crew members, an Iraqi interpreter and a U.S. soldier, and severely wounded the news team's correspondent, in one of a string of attacks that killed dozens of people in Iraq over the course of the day.
Paul Douglas, a cameraman, and James Brolan, a sound man, died in the blast, CBS News said in a statement. Both men were British citizens based in London. Kimberly Dozier, an American correspondent who has covered the war in Iraq for nearly three years, was taken to a Baghdad hospital for surgery. The network said she was listed in critical condition and that doctors were "cautiously optimistic" about her prognosis.
U.S. military authorities did not identify the soldier and the interpreter who were killed. Six other soldiers were wounded, the military said in a statement.
The president of CBS News, Sean McManus, said that Dozier was undergoing a second round of surgery in Baghdad and that the network hoped she would be evacuated to Germany as soon as possible. Doctors successfully removed shrapnel from Dozier's head, but her more serious injuries are to her lower body, CBS News correspondent David Martin reported. She had been in Iraq only for a few days on this visit and was in New York last weekend, according to McManus.
The news team had been traveling in a convoy with the 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 4th Infantry Division, working on a Memorial Day report. On its Web site, CBS News said they had planned to stay out only a few hours in order to get back to their bureau to edit their report.
The convoy had stopped to inspect an Iraqi army checkpoint when a car bomb blew up nearby. Dozier, 39, Douglas, 48, and Brolan, 42, were outside the convoy's Humvees at the time to film the American soldiers inspecting the checkpoint. The network said it believed they were wearing helmets and body armor.
The three journalists were the latest to become casualties in a conflict that has claimed the lives of 71 reporters, most of them Iraqis, since it began in 2003, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
On Jan. 29, in the most recent incident involving Americans, Bob Woodruff, then co-anchor of the ABC News "World News Tonight," and his cameraman, Doug Vogt, suffered serious wounds when the Iraqi military vehicle in which they were traveling was struck by a roadside bomb. Both men are still recovering.
In an interview, McManus called the attack "horribly sad." Iraq is "the most dangerous place on Earth right now, and we take every precaution," he said. He added that CBS would not pull back on its war coverage. "The reporters have a very strong obligation and passion to cover this story."
"What people need to know about Paul is what an amazing human being he was, as well as a great professional," said Jim Murphy, a former executive producer of the "CBS Evening News" who worked with both Douglas and Dozier. "So many times, I watched him get us out of dangerous situations just with his body language or the right words. He projected this great strength but amazing calm at the same time."
Brolan was a freelancer who had worked with CBS News in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past year. He was part of a CBS News team that received a 2006 Overseas Press Club Award for its reporting on the 2005 Pakistan earthquake.
Dozier, born in Honolulu, has been a foreign correspondent specializing in the Middle East since the early 1990s and speaks Arabic and Hebrew. She has worked in radio and print -- she was a freelance reporter for The Washington Post in 1994 -- as well as television. She won three American Women in Radio and Television Gracie Awards for her reports on violence in the Middle East, Kosovo and Afghanistan.
"Every time Kimberly left, she wanted to know when she could go back to Iraq," McManus said. "She really lived for this story. She's passionate and brave and committed."
Murphy said that she had probably spent more time in Iraq than any other single American correspondent.
This attack and others Monday underlined the gravity of the problems facing the country's nine-day-old government. As Iraqi politicians continued a long debate over who will head the country's security ministries, more than 40 people died in eight bombings and several shootings, according to police and news reports. Military authorities also reported that two British soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb while on patrol in the city of Basra in southern Iraq on Sunday night.
The bloodiest attack was the bombing of a bus near Khalis, a predominantly Shiite town about 40 miles north of Baghdad in Diyala province. Fifteen people died, according to police and hospital officials. The passengers worked for the People's Mujaheddin Organization of Iran, a group opposed to the Shiite government of Iraq's eastern neighbor.
The explosion ripped through the middle of the bus. One passenger, Ahmed Bilal Thyab, interviewed while recuperating at a nearby hospital from wounds to his head and right arm, said he was in the back when the bomb exploded. "I saw the others die in front of me," Thyab said. "I survived because I wasn't in the middle."
Thyab thought the bus was attacked in Khalis because "most of the people there are Shiites and hate the People's Mujaheddin."
The organization maintained a military wing in Iraq during the government of President Saddam Hussein, which was intensely hostile to Iran during and after the 1980-88 war between the two countries. After the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 ended Hussein's rule, the organization was disarmed and took a lower profile. Shiites dominate Iraq's new government.
Another bombing, in northern Baghdad's predominantly Shiite Kazimiyah neighborhood, claimed eight lives, an Iraqi army officer said.
Maj. Abbas Khudhaiyer described what happened, in an account confirmed by another witness. A man wearing a brown tracksuit -- and a hidden explosive belt -- placed a box on the front seat of a minibus waiting on a street packed with vendors who sell clothes. A soldier, seeing the suspicious activity, ran toward the man and stopped him.
"Who are you? Why did you drop that box there? What does it have?" the soldier demanded.
"I'm just a passenger and I'm going to ride in the minibus," the man replied. "I'm going to go to Shulah," another neighborhood in Baghdad.
"Show me some identification," the soldier said.
"I don't have any identification," the man said.
The soldier grabbed him by the hand, apparently intending to take him to his officers for questioning, but then the man detonated his explosive belt, which also set off a bomb in the box.
Just before the explosion, Hussein Abdel Ghaffar, a bystander, saw a woman walking hand-in-hand with her 8-year-old boy along the street. After the detonation, the boy was gone. The mother, hysterical, couldn't find him. Ghaffar helped, and found the boy's mutilated body.
"The thing that stayed in my mind, and I will never forget it, is that mother who lost her kid," Ghaffar said. "I was only able to bring her the upper half of his body."
Staff writers Lois Romano in Washington and Howard Kurtz in Los Angeles and special correspondents Bassam Sebti and Saad al-Izzi in Baghdad, Hassan Shammari in Khalis and Saad Sarhan in Najaf contributed to this report.