The Jammu and Kashmir administration have exhumed the bodies of the three labourers who were killed in an encounter in Shopian on July 18, and handed them over to their families, Kashmir Observer reported. The exhumation was done late Friday night at Gantamulla area of Baramulla district in north Kashmir.

The families of the three men were called from Rajouri district in Jammu region and taken to the spot where the labourers had been buried, the newspaper said. Officials said the families will now take the bodies to their native villages to bury them.

Jammu and Kashmir Director General of Police Dilbagh Singh had said on Friday that the legal process to exhume the bodies had been started and will be completed soon.

The families of the deceased – Abrar Ahmed, Imtiyaz Ahmed and Mohammed Ibrar – have sought immediate arrest and conviction of those responsible for the incident. On July 18, the security forces had said that they received specific inputs about the presence of militants in the area, after which they began the operation. They also said that the suspected militants had allegedly opened fire at the security forces.

On September 30, the Shopian chief judicial magistrate remanded two civilians, who were being questioned in the case, to seven-day police custody. Unidentified officials told the newspaper that the two civilians worked as “informers” of the Indian Army and were suspects in the killing that took place in Amshipora. A third suspect in the case, who is detained, has not been arrested.

On September 26, the three had deposed before the Army Court of Inquiry. Unidentified officials said they were the last ones in contact with the three youth killed in July.

The Army had said on September 18 that it had found prima facie evidence that its personnel misused powers under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1990, in the episode. It launched a formal inquiry into the deaths of the three men last month.

Last week, the police had said that the deoxyribonucleic acid samples of the three men had matched with those of their parents in Rajouri district. Their families had said that they were labourers, not militants, as labelled by the security forces.