Militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria say they've slaughtered 1,700 Iraqi soldiers in Tikrit, a massacre that, if confirmed, would be by far the largest atrocity in the country in more than a decade. The militants released photos late Saturday showing the soldiers being led to trenches and then face-down in them before and after their execution. Sources tell the BBC that captured soldiers were divided into ordinary conscripts, who were freed, and volunteers from Shia militias, who were massacred. But some Iraqi officials and human rights groups are casting doubt on the number of dead, the New York Times reports. "I would have thought there would have been leverage in keeping those prisoners alive," a Guardian correspondent says. "My suspicion is that they remain alive but in desperate peril."
- The photos, uploaded to an ISIS Twitter account, show what could be as many as seven massacre sites, though the Times notes they could also be various angles of fewer sites. No individual photo depicts more than 60 victims.
- The captions are particularly inflammatory, notes the Times. A sampling: "The filthy Shiites are killed in the hundreds," and "The liquidation of the Shiites who ran away from their military bases."
- The US decried the photos as "horrible." Washington is so unsettled by the conflict that it is considering direct talks with frequent rival Iran to resolve it. Those talks could come as early as this week, during scheduled nuclear negotiations in Vienna.
- The UN called the reports "deeply disturbing," the AP reports. The photos and their captions seemed designed to incite sectarian violence, and Ban-Ki Moon praised Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani for calling for "the highest possible level of self-restraint.
- Militants have also taken yet another city, seizing Tal Afar, which is west of Musl, after two days of fighting, senior Iraqi security officials tell the Times.
- According to Iraqi state TV, Iraq's military is beginning to strike back after losing cities across the country in last week's stunning rebel advance, CNN reports. State TV says hundreds of militants were killed in airstrikes near Fallujah. Government forces are also believed to be gathering near Samarra in preparation for an attempt to retake Tikrit.