Families of three alleged terrorists, killed in an encounter with security forces at Parimpora on the outskirts of the city last week, on Monday demanded the return of their bodies and a fair investigation into the incident. According to security forces, Ajaz Maqbool Ganai, Zubair Ahmad Lone and Athar Mushtaq Wani were killed in an encounter on December 31. Police said while they were not listed as terrorists in their records, two of them had radical thoughts.

Holding placards that read "we want justice" and "stop killing innocents", the relatives of the slain youths held a protest demonstration on Residency Road here, demanding that their bodies be handed over to them so that they can perform their last rites. The families also demanded a fair investigation into the incident, which they allege was a fake encounter.

PDP president Mehbooba Mufti and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah were among several mainstream politicians who called for returning the bodies to their families.

The leaders cited claims of their families that the three were innocent, though police had said they were radicalised and two of them had links with the Lashkar-e Taiba. Abdullah said the encounter should be probed in a fair and transparent manner.

"It is very important that the probe into this encounter be concluded at the earliest. Only a fair & transparent probe, already promised by @manojsinha_ , will satisfy the families who have lost their loved ones who they insist were innocent," he tweeted. The former chief minister said the union territory administration should, in the interim, hand over the bodies to their families.

"The LG has promised a fair & speedy probe into this encounter when @JKNC_ Lok Sabha member @masoodi_hasnain spoke to him about it recently. In the interim we hope the LG will order the handing over of the bodies to the families," he added. Speaking in the same vein, PDP president Mehbooba Mufti said the Centre and the Union Territory administration should review the policy of not handing over the bodies of those killed in encounters with security forces.

The former chief minister claimed that during her tenure at the helm, she was also told not to return the bodies of the slain terrorists. "I refused it as it is against humanity and our religious beliefs," she said.

She claimed that it was not even clear if those killed were terrorists and urged Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha to intervene. "How long are you going to enforce the peace at gunpoint? How are you going to win the hearts of the people here, " she added.

Earlier, a social activist and lawyer from Rafiabad area of Baramulla district, Advocate Inayat, joined the PDP. He was welcomed into the party by Mehbooba Mufti.