NR: More news on the abductions
TONY HARRIS: It was, to say the least, a daring raid. Today, one of the biggest mass kidnappings since the start of the Iraq war. Gunmen dressed as police kidnapped as many as 150 people from a Ministry of Education building in Baghdad. The lightning quick raid prompting universities across Iraq to shut down until security is beefed up.
Along with the kidnappings, more deadly bombings in the Iraqi campaign.
The latest now from CNN's Michael Ware in Baghdad -- Michael, good morning to you.
The first question, where were the authorities when these kidnappings were taking place?
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, strangely, Tony, the part of the capital, Baghdad, where this took place, it so happens is fairly heavily defended. This is a well-to-do area of the capital not far from the heavily fortified Green Zone. It's home to a number of prominent Iraqi political figures and their party headquarters.
So there's, strangely, an enormous security presence within this area. And, like all government institutions in this country, technically, government forces should have been protecting this research institute. Yet, as the Minister for Higher Education told the nation in a televised address to parliament, more than 80 gunmen showed up in Iraq security uniforms.
They came in more than 20 cars. They claimed that they were on a legitimate government mission and they then went through the four-story building -- it sounds like it was systematically -- before disappearing with what the minister says is up to 150 hostages.
Now, police put the figure somewhat lower. What we have heard cross over Iraqi local TV is that the minister now says perhaps a small number of hostages have been released. One report says it's as few as three -- Tony.
HARRIS: And, Michael, my understanding is that men, not women but men, were the targets of the kidnappings.
Is that correct?
WARE: Absolutely. From what we understand, from what the minister told the Iraqi parliament and from what we're hearing from police sources and eyewitnesses, is that as these clearly well-organized gunmen, who had sealed off not just the institute but the surrounding streets, went through the building, they segregated the men and the women. And when they left with their hostages, they left the women corralled behind in a locked room.
HARRIS: And, Michael, there's been an incident in Ramadi that has resulted in multiple deaths.
What can you tell us about that?
WARE: Well, from the U.S. military, there is this unerring silence, not just on Ramadi, but on reports of fighting, heavy fighting, indeed, here in the capital last night, as well.
What we know of Ramadi is that according to hospital sources in that western city, they have told -- the officials at the hospital have told CNN that last night at about 8:00 p.m. a U.S. raid was launched. As a result, they say, 25 Iraqis were killed -- this is according to the hospital officials -- and an untold number wounded.
The same hospital officials and local eyewitnesses that we've spoken to claim that the U.S. used tanks, main gun-round tank fire, to -- as part of this raid.
Now, the U.S. military, on this and the reports of air strikes in another part of the capital last night, remain silent. Absolutely no comment -- Tony.
Michael Ware for us in Baghdad.
Michael, thank you.
TONY HARRIS: It was a bold crime in broad daylight. Today, one of the biggest mass kidnappings since the start of the Iraq war. Gunmen dressed as police kidnapped as many as 150 people from a Ministry of Education building in Baghdad.
The lightning-quick raid prompting universities across Iraq to shut down until security is beefed up. Along with the kidnappings, more deadly bombings in the Iraqi capital.
The latest now from CNN's Michael Ware in Baghdad.
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Minister for Higher Education here in Iraq, in a televised address to parliament, outlined the events of the morning's mass kidnapping that took place only four hours ago. Now, while local police put the numbers of hostages somewhat lower, the minister told the nation that between 100 and 150 men have been taken in what, if it proves to be true, is going to be one of the most breathtaking insurgent or militia operations that we've seen in recent times.
According to the minister's televised address, as many as 80 gunmen in Iraqi security uniforms, driving more than 20 vehicles, surrounded this government research institute in the heart of the capital here, Baghdad. They then entered the complex, segregating men from women.
At the end of what they said was a legitimate operation -- and according to one report, one of these uniformed men even claimed they had the American ambassador with them -- the gunmen then took the 100 to 150 men and whisked them away, leaving the women behind in a locked room.
As a result of all of this, the Minister of Higher Education has now formally suspended all classes at all universities, saying he's left with no other choice. He doesn't want to see any other professors killed.
So he's made official what has been a de facto suspension of classes this semester. Since universities opened, neither students nor professors have been attending.
KYRA PHILLIPS: They wore official uniforms. They said they were on official business, but they had something else in mind. Gunmen staged a brazen kidnapping in Baghdad, leaving Iraqis wondering whether and how their government can ever protect them.
Here is CNN's Michael Ware.
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Iraqi security forces move in to seal off a Baghdad university building, but, like so much in Iraq, it's too little, too late.
Just a short time earlier, about 80 gunmen in similar army or police uniforms had also set up a cordon before pouring inside this four-story research institute, claiming to be on official business, segregating men from women, and within 20 minutes, escaping in a convoy of more than 20 vehicles, taking the men hostage -- the exact number, unknown; police saying as many as 60, a government minister saying it's up to 100. The only ones left behind, the distraught women.
The sophisticated raid, executed at 10:00 a.m., just after rush hour, was audacious -- so many gunmen, so many hostages, possibly the largest mass kidnapping of the war, all within the heart of the capital, with more than 60,000 American and Iraqi troops on the streets. The breathtaking scale of the kidnapping a counterpoint to the previous day's visit by America's top commander in the region, General John Abizaid.
Preparing to brief Congress, the general's quick trip was designed to show U.S. support for Iraq's ailing government, and according to Iraqi officials, to press for rehabilitation of the country's security forces. Need for that rehabilitation illustrated by the next morning's kidnappings -- a clear sign of either the government's inability to control its own forces, or its weakness in the face of an unwavering and robust insurgency that in the first 13 days of November has already claimed the lives of more than 30 American servicemen.
Following the kidnap operation, university classes were canceled across the city.
ABED THEYAB, IRAQI HIGHER EDUCATION MINISTER (through translator): I'm not ready to see more professors get killed. I have only one choice, which is suspend classes at universities. We have no other choice.
WARE: His choice is token. Few students or professors have dared attend lectures since the semester began two months ago. Waves of kidnappings and assassinations of the country's intelligentsia long ago may study too dangerous.
Michael Ware, CNN, Baghdad.