Eighty-four bodies of Islamic State fighters were piled high at the Kirkuk hospital morgue, as the pathologists went through the gruesome work of gathering intelligence on the group’s sudden counterattack on the city.
One by one, the corpses were removed from black body bags so fingerprints and DNA could be preserved. If no relatives come forward to claim the remains, the bodies are to be burned.
A local counterterrorism unit, meanwhile, is mining the fighters’ cellphones for data and trying to find any residents who might have been on the calls. They are trying to divine whether the city is still at risk of infiltration or another assault.
“What they did to us inside Kirkuk was by far the worst we have ever seen,” said Polad Talabani, the commander of the Kurdish counterterrorism force, which was summoned from nearby Sulaimaniya to help put down the assault that drove deep into the city’s heart before dawn on Oct. 21.