The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) says it has seized another city in northern Iraq shortly after claiming to have massacred hundreds of Iraqi soldiers.
Residents and officials in Tal Afar, some 420 kilometers northwest of Baghdad, told the media that the city fell to Sunni militants from ISIL early on June 16 after a fierce battle.
The fall of Tal Afar comes only days after Al-Qaeda offshoot ISIL overran two main cities in the north -- Iraq's second-largest city, Mosul, and Tikrit, the hometown of former dictator Saddam Hussein.
ISIL has claimed to have executed 1,700 Shi’ite recruits in Tikrit and posted photos online showing dead bodies purportedly belonging to those executed.
An Iraqi military spokesman, Qassim al-Mussawi, confirmed the authenticity of the photos, saying that analysis shows at least 170 slain recruits are shown in the brutal images.
The United States has condemned the killings.
"The claim by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) that it has massacred 1,700 Iraqi Shi'ite air force recruits in Tikrit is horrifying and a true depiction of the bloodlust that these terrorists represent," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement on June 15.
UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said her office has also heard reports of "summary executions and extrajudicial killings" by ISIL militants in the cities of Tikrit and Mosul, as well as other towns the group has seized.
Meanwhile, Western media reports quote U.S. officials as saying Washington is considering talking to Iran about working together against ISIL.
A senior U.S. official is quoted as saying the United States may discuss the crisis with top Iranian officials on the sidelines of this week's nuclear talks in Vienna.
Iran and the United States have long been adversaries. But both countries are interested in rooting out the threat posed to the region by ISIL and both have been looking into offering military support to Baghdad.
Iranian President Hassan Rohani has even floated the idea of cooperating with Washington if the United States takes action in Iraq.
Washington says no U.S. troops will be deployed on the ground.
But the aircraft carrier "USS George HW Bush" is already being deployed to the Persian Gulf, accompanied by two more warships.
Washington also announced it is stepping up security at its Baghdad embassy and relocating some staff to safer areas.
Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has vowed to regain territory captured by ISIL.
His security spokesman, Lieutenant General Qassem Atta, said on June 15 that government troops had "regained the initiative" in fighting to the north of Baghdad.
With reporting by Reuters, AP, and BBC