Iraq claims victories against militants

While ISIS has seized swaths of Iraq in recent weeks, Iraqi forces also claimed gains.

The military has said it has been battling to retake Tikrit, the birthplace of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, and Iraqi state TV also said a pro-government tribal council has been established in the oil-rich and hotly contested city of Kirkuk.

CNN cannot independently confirm the government claims.

ISIS declares caliphate

Emboldened by a weakened Iraqi government that is struggling to stop their murderous advance, extremists from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria declared over the weekend that they have set up a caliphate -- or Islamic state -- spanning large areas of the two countries.

In an audio message and written statement purportedly from the ISIS spokesman, the group called on Muslims to swear allegiance to the caliphate. Both Shia and Sunni Muslims have been deeply offended by the claim.

The message claims that the group's territory now spans from Aleppo province in northwestern Syria to Diyala province in eastern Iraq. It announced that ISIS was changing its name to just the "Islamic State."

On Tuesday, ISIS issued an audio recording claiming to be from its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. CNN cannot confirm that the voice belongs to al-Baghdadi.

In the recording, the speaker urged Muslims worldwide to come to the caliphate's aid, especially scholars, judges, doctors, engineers and soldiers to "answer the dire need of the Muslims for them."

Allegations of atrocities

Human Rights Watch, citing displaced residents and local activists and journalists, said Saturday that ISIS fighters kidnapped at least 40 Shiite Turkmen, dynamited four Shiite places of worship and ransacked homes and farms in two villages just outside Mosul.

Earlier in the week, in the predominantly Shiite Turkmen city of Tal Afar, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) west of Mosul, ISIS destroyed seven Shiite places of worship, Human Rights Watch said, citing local sources.

But allegations of atrocities are not just limited to ISIS. Amnesty International has said it has gathered evidence pointing to a pattern of "extrajudicial executions" of Sunni detainees by government forces and Shiite militias in Tal Afar, Mosul and Baquba.