Bus Hostage Drama Unfolds In Baghdad

Baghdad, IRAQ: A heavy plume of smoke rises through a sandy sky after an explosion in central Baghdad, 28 May 2007. Initial reports put the dead at three from a car bomb, which exploded as arch-foes Iran and the US were meeting at the ambassador level in Baghdad to discuss the dire security situation in Iraq. AFP PHOTO / SABAH ARAR (Photo credit should read SABAH ARAR/AFP/Getty Images)
Getty Images/Sabah Afar
Insurgents have hijacked two buses in Iraq and taken at least 15 passengers hostage, while a car bombing in Baghdad has left at least 19 dead.

Authorities say the small buses where traveling through the Fadhil neighborhood, a Sunni enclave in central Baghdad, when they were waylaid by unidentified gunmen in three cars at 10:15 a.m.

The insurgents then abducted at least 15 passengers and took them to a nearby abandoned government building.

The buses were heading from Baghdad's central Bab al-Mudham bus station to the city's eastern Shiite neighborhoods.

The fighting began when Iraqi security forces reached the scene about 30 minutes later, police said.

Nine militants were arrested as they attacked security forces from nearby alleys with light weapons.

According to Iraqi police, at least two U.S. helicopters were hovering overhead and U.S. forces had taken up positions near the fighting, but were not directly involved.

Sunni insurgents have repeatedly clashed with U.S. and Iraqi forces in the Fadhil area, which is also known for its high crime rate.

In Other Developments:

  • A suicide car bomber struck a busy commercial district in central Baghdad on Monday, killing at least 21 people (including at least three Iraqi policemen) and wounding 66, police and hospital officials said.
    The bomb went off at 2 p.m. in the Sinak commercial district on the east side of the Tigris River. Ghaith Karim, a 38-year-old Shiite cloth merchant, said he saw fire ball and heard the loud blast. "It was tremendous. I felt the ground was shaking," Karim said. "When I reached the scene, I found legs, charred pieces of bodies and pools of blood. Casualties were being evacuated by civilian cars. Firefighters battled to extinguish the fire."
  • In another incident, police said that a roadside bomb killed two
    people and injured another nine when it detonated under a parked
    car in the central Baghdad district of Bab al-Muadham.
  • On Monday Iran and the United States resumed public diplomacy, having the first public high level meeting between the two countries since the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran. The meeting in Baghdad between ambassadors on security in Iraq could produce a chapter in world history for its success — or a footnote for its failure.