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Islamic Militants Post Graphic Photos of Mass Killings of Iraq Soldiers

Islamic militants, who have captured several cities in Iraq and are setting sights on Baghdad, have posted online photos of graphic mass killings of Iraqi soldiers. The U.S. State Department has called the claim that 1,700 Iraqi forces have been massacred "horrifying" and said that it exposes the terrorists' "blood lust."

"The claim by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant that it has massacred 1,700 Iraqi Shia air force recruits in Tikrit is horrifying and a true depiction of the blood lust that these terrorists represent," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.

"While we cannot confirm these reports, one of the primary goals of ISIL is to set fear into the hearts of all Iraqis and drive sectarian division among its people."

Militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant reportedly posted a number of grizzly photos showing masked fighters loading captured soldiers into trucks; forcing them into a shallow ditch, and finally displaying their blood soaked bodies after shooting them, The Associated Press reported on Sunday.

Last week, half a million people, including many Christians, fled the city of Mosul and much of the Nineveh province after ISIL militants captured the region. The Islamist group, formed in the wake of fall of dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003, is also trying to gain control in war-torn Syria and establish Islamic rule.

CNN noted that the crisis in Iraq has "all the makings of a civil war," and a foreign policy crisis. State TV has reported that air raids against the militants took place in Saqlawiya, northwest of Falluja, while Iran has sent close to 500 revolutionary Guard troops to help Iraqi security forces in the Diyala province.

On Friday, President Barack Obama declared that the U.S. will not be sending troops into Iraq, but that the U.S. will prepare other options that could support Iraq's security forces.

"Any action that we may take to provide assistance to Iraqi security forces has to be joined by a serious and sincere effort by Iraq's leaders to set aside sectarian differences, to promote stability, and account for the legitimate interests of all of Iraq's communities and to continue to build the capacity of an effective security force," Obama said. "We can't do it for them. In the absence of this type of political effort, short-term military action, including any assistance we might provide, won't succeed."

Baghdad has reportedly bolstered its defenses as a response to the threat, while Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has called on citizens to defend their country. Violent incidents continue shaking the capital, however, and a string of explosions killed at least 15 people and wounded more than 30 according to officials. The escalation in suicide and car bombings in recent months has targeted Shiite neighborhoods and security forces, while officials have been searching vehicles and manning checkpoints.

Authorities are also attempting to limit the spread of the grizzly images thorough social media. Internet service provider IQ Networks in Iraq said that the government has ordered sites such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to be blocked, while network operators have been told to halt traffic for virtual private networks.

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