NPR journalists' car bombed in Baghdad

BAGHDAD (AP) -- An American journalist for National Public Radio and three Iraqi colleagues escaped injury Sunday when a bomb attached to their car exploded as it was parked along a street in west Baghdad.

Ivan Watson, a 33 year-old reporter for NPR on temporary assignment in Iraq, said he had gone to interview people in a kebab cafe a few yards from an Iraqi army checkpoint.

Watson, who is normally based in Istanbul, Turkey, was accompanied by producer and translator Ali Hamdani and two drivers who refused to be named for security reasons.

The group returned to their armored car, which was parked out front, about 45 minutes later but were stopped by Iraqi soldiers who said they had been informed minutes earlier that a bomb was attached to the car, Watson said.

The bomb, which had been placed underneath the driver's side, exploded about 15 feet from the NPR journalists. It destroyed the car but nobody was injured, according to NPR.

Iraqi and American soldiers, who cordoned off the area, said the bomb was possibly detonated by remote control.

The Iraqi soldiers said they had arrested a suspect, an egg vendor who had suspected family links to a member of al-Qaida in Iraq.

The soldiers spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

In a statement issued in Washington, NPR expressed gratitude for the "swift actions by Iraqi authorities" in warning its employees about the bomb and preventing them from entering the vehicle.

"Despite Sunday's attack, and the continued danger and difficulty of reporting from Iraq, even as the violence levels there fall, NPR remains committed to full and complete coverage of this important story," the statement added.

Use of so-called "sticky bombs" attached to cars, buses and trucks has become increasingly common in Baghdad since increased security has made it difficult for extremists to use truck bombs.