A car carrying two Japanese journalists has been attacked in Iraq, and there are reports that both have been killed.
Shinsuke Hashida (left) and Kotaro Ogawa were working freelance
The journalists and two Iraqis working for them were driving south of Baghdad when gunmen opened fire.
The attack may renew unease at Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's decision to send troops to Iraq, where two Japanese diplomats were killed in 2003.
Last month five Japanese were briefly taken hostage by militants demanding the troops be withdrawn.
The foreign ministry in Tokyo said that the latest attack took
place on Thursday in Mahmudiya, 30km (20 miles) south of Baghdad.
The journalists were returning to the capital from the town of Samawa, where more than 500 Japanese troops are stationed.
The vehicle was set on fire, but the driver managed to escape and was later treated for injuries in a local hospital.
An official at the hospital said he had received two bodies, and the driver said they were the Japanese journalists he was travelling with.
The two are believed to be freelance reporters Shinsuke Hashida, 61, who lives in Bangkok, and his nephew Kotaro Ogawa, 33, from the western Japanese city of Tottori.
Mr Hashida is described as a veteran war reporter.
"When he told me he would leave for Iraq on May 20, I told him
the job was not worth risking his life," his elderly mother
told Japan Broadcasting Corp (NHK).
The fate of the fourth member of the party, a translator, remains unclear.
Last November, two Japanese diplomats were killed near the northern city of Tikrit when their car was ambushed.