Iraq is close to all-out sectarian war as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) massacres dozens of Iraqi soldiers in revenge for the loss of one of its commanders, and government supporters in Baghdad warn that the spread of fighting to the capital could provoke mass killings of the Sunni minority there.
One unverified statement from Isis militants on Twitter says that it has executed 1,700 prisoners. Pictures show killings at half a dozen places.
Isis has posted pictures that appear to show prisoners being loaded on to flatbed trucks by masked gunmen and later forced to lie face down in a shallow ditch with their arms tied behind their backs.
Final pictures show the blood-covered bodies of captive soldiers, probably Shia, who make up much of the rank-and-file of the Iraqi army. Captions say the massacre was in revenge for the death of an Isis commander, Abdul-Rahman al-Beilawy, whose killing was reported just before Isis’s surprise offensive last week that swept through northern Iraq, capturing the Sunni strongholds of Mosul and Tikrit.
Meanwhile, the US government was considering direct talks with Iran to discuss options for halting the Isis advance, an official from the Obama administration said.