Iraqi security forces surrounded a town south of Baghdad Saturday, where armed Sunni militants are threatening to kill dozens of Shi'ite hostages.
Details are unclear, but the witnesses say militants stormed the town of Madaen late Friday, taking Shi'ite prisoners and threatening to kill them unless all Shi'ites leave town. There are conflicting reports about the number of hostages, ranging from 35 to 150.
A U.S military spokeswoman gave no details about what Iraqi and coalition forces are doing to free the captives. But she says U.S. officials hope the situation can be resolved peacefully.
Sunnis are the minority in Iraq, but held power under ousted dictator Saddam Hussein. Most Sunnis boycotted the January elections that resulted in a Shi'ite majority parliament and a new Kurdish president.