British journalists and soldiers killed in attacks in Baghdad and Basra

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Two British journalists and two British soldiers have been killed in Iraq in one of the bloodiest periods of violence since the start of the conflict. The four men died in two roadside bomb attacks which also left an American woman journalist critically wounded. In seven further bombings across the country, at least 40 Iraqi civilians were killed, and dozens injured.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said the dead soldiers were in the Royal Dragoon Guards, attacked on Sunday night during counter-insurgency operations in Basra. They were in an armoured Land Rover in Gizayza, in the north-west of Basra.

Defence Secretary Des Browne said: "It was with profound sorrow that I heard of the tragic deaths of two British soldiers. Our thoughts are with the family and friends of these brave men. I am told two other soldiers have minor injuries."

The two journalists were working for the American broadcaster CBS News and were embedded with a US military unit in Baghdad. Veteran cameraman Paul Douglas, 48, and soundman James Brolan, 42, were on patrol with the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, when their convoy was hit by an improvised explosive device, CBS said.

They were outside their Humvee and were believed to have been wearing protective clothing and equipment, the network added. A spokesman for the Foreign Office said a US Army captain and an Iraqi interpreter were also killed.

Mr Douglas, who was based in London, had worked for CBS News in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Rwanda and Bosnia. Mr Brolan, also based in London, had worked with CBS News in Baghdad and Afghanistan and won an award for reporting on the Pakistan earthquake

A third member of the team, Kimberly Dozier, 39, a CBS News correspondent and former London bureau chief, was in critical condition at a US military hospital in Baghdad after surgery.

Iraqi police said the attack was in Tahariyat Square, a mixed area in south-central Baghdad. The blast collapsed the front end of the armoured Humvee in which they were travelling.

Dozens of journalists have been injured, killed or kidnapped in Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. Before yesterday's attack, the Committee to Protect Journalists had put the number at 69. Of those, nearly three-quarters were Iraqis, the New York-based group said.

The Sunday bombing in Basra brings the total fatalities of UK servicemen and women in Iraq to 113. It also raises the British military death toll for this month to nine; five were killed when a Lynx helicopter crashed and two others died in a roadside bomb.

Yesterday, at least 40 Iraqi civilians were killed and dozens injured in violence which swept through Iraq. In the worst incident, a car bomb aimed at an Iraqi army patrol killed 12 people, most of them students, in a Sunni Muslim district of northern Baghdad. A roadside bomb killed at least eight people in a Shia area in the city's north-west.

Elsewhere, 11 people died when a bomb detonated on a bus taking labourers to work in the small town of Khalis in a volatile area 50 miles north of the capital.

The British Army had just announced a significant breakthrough. On Saturday, troops of the Queen's Royal Hussars uncovered a major arms cache, including enough material to make dozens of explosives. The haul included rocket-propelled grenades, a sniper rifle, a sub-machinegun and military disguises.

A spokesman for the British Armed Forces, Major Sebastian Muntzl, said: "We are being successful against the terrorists but tragically this has happened. The soldiers on the ground have had some very successful operations. The broad mass of the population support what we are doing and are very much on side."

Last week the Government released figures showed the number of attacks against the British-led forces in southern Iraq rose every month from 36 in January to 103 in April.