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U.S. Journalists Narrowly Escape Iraq Car Bomb

BAGHDAD (Reuters) -- A team of journalists working for U.S. media company National Public Radio (NPR) narrowly escaped a car bombing in Baghdad after Iraqi soldiers warned them a device had been attached to the bottom of their armored car, NPR said.

NPR correspondent Ivan Watson, Iraqi producer and translator Ali Hamdani, and two Iraqi drivers who did not want to be named had stopped on November 30 to conduct interviews in a kebab shop, a few yards from an Iraqi Army checkpoint, NPR said.

They spent around 45 minutes interviewing people and eating lunch in Rabiye Street, once a major shopping area before Iraq descended into sectarian bloodshed following the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

As the reporting team was heading back to their car, Iraqi soldiers ran up to them screaming "bomb" in Arabic and pointing at their parked car. Seconds later, the car exploded and burst into flames, the U.S. media company said.

The bomb appeared to have been a "sticky bomb" -- devices attached by magnets, usually to the driver's side of a vehicle, and which have become a common assassination tool in Iraq.

While violence in Iraq has fallen to four-year lows, car bombs and suicide bombers are still frequent.

Most target Iraqis and are viewed by the United Nations as an attempt by Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups to reignite the bloodshed between majority Shi'a and once-dominant Sunni Arabs.

The incident involving NPR was a reminder that Western journalists remain a target in Iraq and that going out from the blast-wall- and sandbag-enclosed guarded compounds that house foreign organizations can be a perilous adventure.

NPR said the Iraqi soldiers told them they had received a tip-off about the car bomb from the public.

A suspect -- an egg vendor from a nearby shop -- was arrested. NPR said Iraqi soldiers had informed it that the suspect had been under surveillance for some time for suspected ties to an Al-Qaeda member in Iraq.

"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," NPR said in a statement.

NPR programming goes out to more than 880 public radio stations in the United States.