BAGHDAD â€“ The United States said Sunday it is moving some staff from the embassy and loading up security as destructive explosions rocked the Iraqi capital and advancing assertive Islamic radicalist circulated graphic photos appearing to show its fighters killing Â captured Iraqi soldiers.
The U.S. State Department said in a statement that an undisclosed number of staffers will be moved to Amman, Jordan, or U.S. consulates elsewhere in Iraq not immediately threatened by the insurgent group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL.
It said the embassy would remain fully operational with “some additional U.S. government security personnel.” The embassy, inside the Green Zone near the Tigris River, employs thousands of people, some local hires and others from the United States.
The development came as photos posted on a militant website show what look to be masked fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant loading captives onto flatbed trucks before forcing them to lie face-down in a shallow ditch with their arms tied behind their backs. The bodies of the captives are then shown, soaked in blood after being shot.
The Associated Press said the images were verified and were consistent with its reporting. Iraq’s top military spokesman, Lt. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, confirmed the authenticity of the photos Sunday and said he was aware of cases of mass murder of Iraqi soldiers.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki condemned and denounced as “horrifying” a claim by ISIL that it has massacred 1,700 Shia air force recruits in Tikrit. She called the claim “a true depiction of the bloodlust that these terrorists represent.”
She said that while the United States cannot confirm the massacres, one of the insurgents’ goals “is to set fear into the hearts of all Iraqis and drive sectarian division among its people.”
Meanwhile, a string of explosions in Baghdad killed at least 15 and wounded more than 30 on Sunday. A car bomb early Sunday killed 10 and wounded 21 in the city center. After nightfall, another explosion went off in the area, killing two and wounding five. A third blast hit near a falafel shop in the Sadr City district, killing three and wounding seven.
The Wall Street JournalÂ reported that the Obama administration is preparing to open direct talks with Iran on the situation in Iraq and ways to counter the radical Sunni militia there.