An Interior Ministry official says the well-known civilian spokesman for the Baghdad security operation has been kidnapped and three bodyguards killed in an ambush in the capital.

The attack against Tahseen Sheikhly comes amid fierce clashes between Iraqi security forces and Shiite militia fighters in Baghdad and several southern cities. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to release the information.

Sheikhly is a Sunni who often appeared with U.S. military and embassy officials at news conferences to tout the successes of the crackdown that began in Baghdad and surrounding areas more than a year ago.

The official says gunmen stormed Sheikhly's house Thursday in a Mahdi Army stronghold in southeastern Baghdad and torched it.