Woodruff, Cameraman Seriously Injured in Iraq

ByABC News
January 29, 2006, 9:23 AM

Jan. 29, 2006 — -- "World News Tonight" co-anchor Bob Woodruff and cameraman Doug Vogt are recovering from injuries suffered when their convoy was hit by an improvised explosive devise in Iraq today.

They remain in serious but stable condition following surgery at a U.S. military hospital in Iraq and will be treated at a medical facility in Germany.

The two and an Iraqi soldier were seriously injured when their convoy was attacked near Taji, Iraq, about 12 miles north of Baghdad. Woodruff and Vogt suffered shrapnel wounds and underwent surgery at the U.S. military hospital in Balad.

Both suffered head injuries and Woodruff also suffered wounds to his upper body. They were flown to the U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, and doctors there will assess their condition and monitor their recovery in the coming days.

"We take this as good news, but the next few days will be critical," ABC News President David Westin said in a statement.

Woodruff, Vogt and their four-man team were in the lead vehicle traveling in a convoy with Iraqi security forces in Taji, Iraq. Woodruff and Vogt were standing up in the back hatch of their vehicle taping a video log of the patrol at the time of the attack.

"He wanted to get out and report the story and not be locked in and taking information from someone else who was experiencing it," said ABC senior producer Kate Felsen, who had been working with Woodruff for the past two weeks.

"I spoke with both of them," Felsen continued. "Doug was conscious, and I was able to reassure him we were getting them care. I spoke to Bob also and walked with them to the helicopter."

Woodruff and Vogt had been embedded with the 4th Infantry Division and were in a mechanized vehicle on a combined operation with Iraqi Army and Coalition forces when the explosive went off.

"This is very common over there now," said White House correspondent Martha Raddatz on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos." "These attacks are planned, and this [the small arms fire] is a secondary attack.

"Sometimes when the medical personnel come in, they have small arms fire following up on that," said Raddatz, who also has covered the Pentagon for years and has had extensive experience filing reports from Iraq.

The ambush of the convoy was complex. The explosion was followed by small arms fire from three different directions. Iraqi security forces spread out looking for the triggermen while U.S. troops tended to Woodruff and Vogt. The convoy was equipped with improvised explosive device (IED) jammers, which would interfere with the signals from a remote-controlled device using wireless signals.

Officials believe the IED was detonated through a hard wire in the ground. The attack on the convoy occurred in the same area where a U.S. Apache helicopter was shot down earlier this month.

The U.S. military said it was conducting an investigation into the attack. The White House released a statement extending its condolences to Woodruff and Vogt.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Woodruff and Mr. Vogt. We are praying for their full and speedy recovery," the statement said. "Our thoughts are with their families and their loved ones. The White House is offering to help in any way as the government does when any American is injured in the line of work."

Woodruff and his crew had been traveling in a U.S. armored Humvee, but then transferred into an Iraqi vehicle -- which was believed to be a much softer target for attacks.

"It was a mechanized vehicle," Raddatz said. "At least it wasn't one of the pickup trucks they usually drive around in. They were in the lead vehicle, and they were up in the hatch, so they were exposed."

Raddatz said both Woodruff and Vogt were protected. They were wearing body armor, helmets and ballistic glasses. Woodruff and Vogt were taken by medevac to the Green Zone to receive treatment within 37 minutes of the blast. They were then flown by helicopter to Balad which is about a 20-minute ride from Baghdad, said Raddatz.

"There are very good doctors, the best medical care you can possibly get, in Balad," said Raddatz.

Training Iraq forces to deter insurgent attacks has become a central focus of U.S. strategy toward ultimate troop reduction and withdrawl. Journalists must travel with Iraqi troops to truly cover the conflict in Iraq, but doing so makes them more vulnerable to attack.

"If you're going to cover the Iraqi military forces, you have to be with them," Raddatz said. "You have to see how they live. I will tell you one thing, a fewmonths ago when I was there and we wanted to get into an Iraqi pickup truck, one of the American soldiers said, 'You can't do that. It's way too dangerous.' "

Iraqi security forces, Raddatz said, are a softer target for insurgents.

"It's become a primary target. It's a softer target, as you know, but it is a primary target to attack these forces," Raddatz said. "There have been hundreds and hundreds -- thousands, probably -- of Iraqi security forces killed. Sometimes they're attacked by suicide bombers, but they have become a primary target. It is very dangerous business training these troops, for that reason alone."