The militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria said Sunday that it has killed 1,700 captured Iraqi soldiers in Tikrit, one of the cities they've captured in their quick (but long-planned) southward sweep toward Baghdad. The claim could not be verified, but to prove its point, ISIS posted some graphic photos of the purported massacre on social media. Here's one of the less-grisly photos:
The photos and their taunting captions are presumably aimed at inflaming sectarian tensions in Iraq, and the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is trying to block their dissemination. "I don't doubt they are real, but 1,700 is a big number," a senior Iraqi official tells The New York Times. "We are trying to control the reaction."
As Baghdad prepares for an expected assault, Shia militias and civilians are volunteering to fight the Sunni militants of ISIS and any allied militias fighting with them. Maliki is putting on at least a brave face. "We will march and liberate every inch they defaced, from the country's northernmost point to the southernmost point," he told Shia volunteers on Sunday. The U.S. has moved some embassy personnel out of Baghdad and moved in 150 Marines to guard the U.S. Embassy.