The security forces late on Thursday night called off its operation against militants who were holed up in caves inside a dense jungle of Jammu and Kashmir's Bhati Dhar near the LoC for eight days and said the ultras may have slipped out.
"The operation has been called off. The possibility of militants having escaped cannot be ruled out", said Defence Spokesman S N Acharya capping the futile search for the militants whom the security forces had engaged in a battle.
The encounter, which has been going on since January 1, has claimed the lives of four militants and three security personnel including a Junior Commissioned Officer.
The suspension of the anti-militancy offensive came after a major combing operation was launched by the army earlier in the day cordoning all sides of the area in Bhati Dhar forest belt to zero in on the militants who were sheltered in the caves, Brigadier General Staff (BGS), 16 Corps, Brig Gurdeep Singh told PTI here.
"We want to squeeze their space and then launch an assault. Troops have closed in on the cave hideouts after searching the forest belt around it", he said, adding that a go-slow strategy has been adopted in view of the heavy fog, dense forest and cave-like hideouts which provide a major shield to terrorists hiding there.
Security forces have fired rockets and mortars targeting the cave hideouts in the forest.
"We will not allow them to escape from the spot. The operation will finish after the recovery of their bodies," they had said.
Intercepts available with the security forces suggested that there were about ten militants, some of them top commanders of Jaish-e-Mohammed, and Lashkar-e-Taiba.