Footage obtained by News18 shows the Indian Army made repeated calls for three alleged terrorists killed in a controversial December 30 shootout on Srinagar’s suburbs to surrender after they were surrounded. Families of the three men have alleged they were kidnapped and killed in cold blood, claiming two were visiting Srinagar to submit university admission forms.

“Leave your weapons and come out,” a soldier from the Indian Army’s 2 Rashtriya Rifles can be heard saying in one video, shot late on the night of December 30. “We promise you that you won’t be harmed. We want you to be safe”.

The night-time video shows a drone illuminating upper floors of the sprawling building in which the three men were killed.

In an earlier video, shot late in the evening on December 30 by a police officer present at the site, another unidentified soldier can be heard asking the men if they wished to surrender. There is no audible response from inside the building.

Police allege Aijaz Maqbool Ganie, from Putrigam in Pulwama, Zubair Lone, from Turkwangan near Shopian, and Ather Mushtaq Wani, from the village of Belov, near Pulwama were recruits of The Resistance Front, a coalition of jihadist groups led by the Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Their families, however, insist all three had no links to terrorist groups.

Ganie’s mother said Aijaz was just out of school. He left for Srinagar at 11am on Tuesday to submit admission forms at Kashmir University. Ganie phoned again, the family says, just after 3pm to say he’d need another day to finish his work at the University, and return the next day.

Lone’s neighbours, for his part, said he was home until lunchtime on December 30. “He worked as a carpenter at construction sites,” the neighbour told News18. “So when he didn’t return that night, no one was worried. The family assumed he’d found work somewhere.”

Ather Mushtaq Wani, similarly, left home saying he was submitting university-entrance forms. The family says he left alone, and did not mention plans to stay at home.

Police sources, however, have told News18 that cellphone records show that none of the three men were in the vicinity of Kashmir University in the course of December 30, gathering instead in an abandoned building in Lawaypora, on the fringes of the Hokesar wetlands, some ten kilometres from Srinagar.

The building once served as a hostel for doctors and nurses training at the city’s Tahira Khanum Nursing Home, but has been vacant for at least two years.

Investigation sources told News18 that cellphone records show Ganie and Wani first visited Hyderpora, then met at Hyderpora and travelled to Lawaypora. Lone’s phone records he had travelled from his home to Anantnag and Pulwama, before ending up in Lawaypora.

The cell, police sources claim, was led by Wani, a cousin of top Hizb-ul-Mujahideen jihadist Rayees Ahmad Wani. Killed in a shootout in 2017, Wani’s cremation drew thousands of supporters, who watched as his body, draped in a Pakistani flag, received a gun-salute from members of the jihadist group.

Following his cousin’s killing, police allege, Wani volunteered to serve with the TRF, a Lashkar-e-Taiba front led by Kasur-based jihadist Sajid Saifullah Jatt. In recent weeks, the TRF has been responsible for a succession of execution-style killings, most recently that of Srinagar-based jeweller Satpal Nischal.

In a statement, the TRF said Nischal—who had lived in the city for decades, remaining even after the ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Hindus in 1989—was “an active participant in the Demographic change and Settler Colony Project run by Hindutva Fascists to alter the demography of Kashmir”.

The three slain men, police say, were likely tasked to stage a similar assassination, and then disappear back into their communities

In several recent cases, TRF operatives have continued to live normal lives at home, using it as a cover—a sharp departure from the period around 2016, when new jihad recruits often posted their photographs on social media.

For example, Naveed Lateef, an alleged TRF operative from Pulwama now held on charges of throwing a grenade at police personnel in Srinagar, regularly visited the city to attend medical entrance-examination coaching.