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Militants post images of mass killing in Iraq

BAGHDAD -- The Islamic militant group that swept across northern Iraq and captured two major cities last week has posted graphic photos that appear to show its fighters massacring dozens of captured Iraqi soldiers.

The pictures on a militant website appear to show masked fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, loading the captives onto flatbed trucks before forcing them to lie face-down in a shallow ditch with their arms tied behind their backs. The final images show the bodies of the captives soaked in blood after being shot.

The grisly images could further sharpen sectarian tensions as hundreds of Shiites heed a call from their most revered spiritual leader to take up arms against the Sunni militants that have swept across the north.

A car bomb meanwhile exploded in central Baghdad, killing 10 and wounding 21, according to police and hospital officials. Baghdad has seen an escalation in suicide and car bombings in recent months, mostly targeting Shiite neighborhoods or security forces.

Government officials said ISIL fighters were trying to capture Tal Afar in northern Iraq on Sunday and raining down rockets seized last week from military arms depots. The officials said the local garrison suffered heavy casualties and the town's main hospital was unable to cope with the number of wounded, without providing exact numbers.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters. Tal Afar is mainly inhabited by Turkmen, an ethnic minority.

The captions of the photos say the killings were to avenge the killing of an ISIL commander, Abdul-Rahman al-Beilawy, whose death was reported by both the government and ISIL shortly before the al-Qaida splinter group's lightning offensive, which has plunged Iraq into its bloodiest crisis since the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2011.

“This is the fate that awaits the Shiites sent by Nouri to fight the Sunnis,” one caption read, apparently referring to Iraq's Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Iraq's top military spokesman, Lt. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, confirmed the photos' authenticity and said he was aware of cases of mass murder of captured Iraqi soldiers in areas held by ISIL.

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