At least seven people were killed and 14 injured after gunmen opened fire in a crowded area near a shopping centre in eastern Baghdad, Iraq, on Monday.

The gunmen, who were holed up in the Zahrat Baghdad mall, also took hostages, AFP reported. A car bomb exploded before the gunmen entered the shopping centre.

The men were apparently wearing suicide belts, said police officials. The number of hostages and gunmen has not been confirmed yet.

"They are inside the Zahrat Baghdad mall. When the security forces got too close, they killed three hostages," AFP quoted a police official as saying.

"We are taking a cautious approach now. We want this attack to end with the lowest possible number of casualties," he added. "They completely control the mall right now, they have men on the roof."

The mall is located in a commercial area in Baghdad al-Jadida, which is a Shiite-majority region.