PESHAWAR, March 22: The much-talked about 'high-value target' being hunted by Pakistani troops during their massive operation against foreign militants and their local protectors in the South Waziristan area near the Afghan border may have escaped through a tunnel discovered on Monday during a temporary suspension of military action.

According to Brigadier Mehmood Shah, head of the Fata Security Department, said it was a two-kilometre man-made tunnel, uncovered in Kaloosha area by the army's engineering corps personnel while they were demolishing houses of suspects in the targeted area.

The tunnel connected the houses of Nek Muhammad and Haji Sharif, two of the five main tribal suspects, and opened into a dry creek. The opening of the tunnel, Brig Shah said, was located inside the security cordon and militants might have used it to escape during the military crackdown.

It is possible that some of the suspects might have escaped through this tunnel," he said. "It has been there for quite some time. I don't know how effective was the cordon on the first night," he said while responding to a question.

Local residents said that most militants had escaped on the first night of the operation on Tuesday when the cordon was not that effective.

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