Japan's government on Friday said it is asking the U.S. -led Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq to investigate a fatal attack on a vehicle carrying two Japanese journalists.

The two journalists were in a four-wheel drive vehicle that was attacked by gunmen in a car outside Baghdad.

Officials at Japan's Embassy in the Iraqi capital say they have seen two bodies at a hospital, which doctors say are apparently those of the Japanese journalists.

A government spokesman on Friday said, due to the condition of the remains, it could be some time before identification can be confirmed. In the meantime, the government is asking the U.S. authorities in Iraq to investigate the attack.

The Iraqi driver, who was shot in the shoulder and legs, told Japan's NHK News that he managed to get out the vehicle before it exploded.

He says the attackers came from behind, then got ahead of his car and opened fire. He says they continued to shoot after he crashed into a tree and ran away. Then he saw the vehicle explode.

The men were about 30 kilometers from Baghdad, returning to the capital from the southern city of Samawah, where Japan has deployed hundreds of troops.

The area where the attack took place, near Mahmudiya, is one of the most dangerous spots in Iraq. There have been repeated attacks there in recent months on U.S. military convoys, foreign contractors and journalists.

The two Japanese are believed to be 61-year-old Shinsuke Hashida and his 33-year-old nephew, Kotaro Ogawa.

Mr. Hashida was a veteran war photojournalist who was working for a Japanese newspaper and a television network. He recently told the Tokyo Broadcasting System that he went to Iraq because he opposed the war.

Mr. Hashida says he is exhausted by the fighting in Iraq, and says that because he is getting old, he would like to quit for good after this.

His eldest son, Daisuke Hashida, told the Japan News Network on Friday that his father appeared to have had a premonition he would die in Iraq.

He says his father told him that he was prepared to die and to tell the media he died a happy man doing what he liked to do.

Mr. Ogawa joined his uncle as a freelance journalist this year after quitting his post as a producer for Japan's quasi-official NHK network. His father, Hiroshi Ogawa, says Kotaro insisted on joining his uncle in Iraq.

He says he did not stop his son from going because he could not.

Japanese government officials on Friday played down any connection between the latest attack and its Self Defense Forces in Samawah. Defense officials say the deaths will not affect Japan's troop deployment in Iraq.

Five Japanese civilians were kidnapped in April by armed Iraqi militants, who threatened to kill them, if Japan did not withdraw its troops from the country. Japan's government refused, and the hostages were released within a week.

Government officials and lawmakers here have been calling on Japanese activists and journalists in Iraq to leave the country, saying they need to think about their personal safety.