Ten Sunni and Shiite tribal leaders who had joined forces against Al-Qaeda in Iraq were abducted by gunmen as they were traveling home to Diyala province after a meeting with a government official in Baghdad, police and a relative said.

The gunmen ambushed the two cars carrying the 10 men in Baghdad's predominantly Shiite neighborhood of Shaab at about 3:30 p.m., police officials said.

The sheiks -- seven Sunnis and three Shiites -- were on their way back to Diyala province after attending a conference with the Shiite-dominated government's adviser for tribal affairs to discuss coordinating efforts against Al-Qaeda in Iraq.

They were representing a so-called Awakening Council, as the anti-Al-Qaeda groups often are known, in the Salam area, due east of Baqouba, a former Al-Qaeda stronghold.

U.S. military commanders have attributed a drop in violence in the city, 60 kilometers (35 miles) northeast of Baghdad, to the increased public opposition to Al-Qaeda, as well as an influx of thousands of extra U.S. troops as part of a security crackdown.