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Wounded ABC crew shows improvement

Anchor, cameraman may return to U.S. on Tuesday

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LANDSTUHL, Germany (CNN) -- ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff and cameraman Doug Vogt showed improvement Monday after being wounded by a bomb in Iraq and could return to the United States as early as Tuesday, the network reported.

Woodruff, 46, and Vogt, 44, suffered serious head injuries Sunday in the roadside blast north of Baghdad. They were flown to Germany on Monday morning for treatment.

Woodruff, who also suffered shrapnel wounds, responded to stimuli in his hands and feet, and briefly opened his eyes, and Vogt was alert and joking, the network reported.

Dave Woodruff told ABC that his brother -- who was named co-anchor of ABC's "World News Tonight" in December -- was getting "first-class care" at a U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany.

"We think he's going to recover eventually," he told ABC. "It's going to be a long road, but I think he's a strong guy, and he's going to make it."

Vogt also suffered a broken shoulder in the bombing, which took place while they were riding in an Iraqi armored personnel carrier. The vehicle was at the head of a U.S. and Iraqi convoy near Taji, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) north of Baghdad, ABC said.

ABC White House correspondent Martha Raddatz told CNN that the two are to be flown Tuesday from Landstuhl to Bethesda Naval Hospital near Washington for treatment at its brain injury center.

She said officials are most concerned about the men's head injuries, which she described as "similar to blunt-trauma injuries."

"They certainly got some shrapnel wounds, but those were not life-threatening," she said. "The problem here is brain swelling, and again, it's very similar to an impact injury. And they've got to watch the brain swelling for the next few days."

Raddatz also said it is her understanding that Woodruff was not disfigured in the blast.

Col. Bryan Gamble of Landstuhl Regional Medical Center said the two sustained "very significant injuries" and their condition was stable.

"The next few days and weeks really will be important to determine how they do," he said.

He said they would likely fly out of Germany between 9 a.m. and noon (3 a.m. to 6 a.m. ET) on Tuesday with a critical care transport team. Asked if body armor saved their lives, Gamble said, "It probably did."

Landstuhl is the largest U.S. military hospital outside the United States, but Gamble said the goal was to send Woodruff and Vogt to a medical facility in the United States.

Raddatz said Woodruff, Vogt and two ABC crew members were traveling in a convoy of eight vehicles -- six of them U.S. Humvees with additional armor; the other two Iraqi armored vehicles.

The four ABC journalists had been traveling in the U.S. vehicles but decided to move forward into the Iraqi vehicles "to get the perspective of the Iraqis," she said.

"Bob and Doug were up in the hatch," Raddatz said. "That's when the vehicle hit an improvised explosive device."

The convoy, she said, was outfitted with jamming equipment designed to detonate wireless bombs, but it is believed the bomb was hard-wired and went off when the vehicle struck it.

The blast was followed by small-arms fire from three directions, ABC said. An Iraqi soldier was also wounded in the attack, Iraqi officials said.

Experienced journalists

Last month, Woodruff and Elizabeth Vargas were named to replace the late Peter Jennings as "World News Tonight" anchors. They started the job this month. (Full story)

Woodruff, an attorney and former law professor, began his career in journalism as a translator for CBS News in Beijing during the Tiananmen Square uprising in 1989. During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, he was embedded with Marines on the front lines.

"We want to see him recover and return to what he wants to do," his brother said. "Maybe not back to Iraq, but certainly I think he'll want to get back to what he's always wanted to do."

Vogt has been with ABC News for 15 years and has covered such global hot spots as Bosnia, Gaza and Iran.

Reporting from the Iraqi war zone is a dangerous proposition. According to Reporters Without Borders, 79 journalists and news assistants have been killed in Iraq since the United States invaded in March 2003.

The organization said 35 news media workers have been abducted since the war's start. They include Jill Carroll, a freelance reporter working for the Christian Science Monitor who appeared Monday appealing for her release in a video broadcast by Al-Jazeera. (Full story)

CNN's Chris Burns contributed to this report.

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