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ISLAMABAD, Aug 29: There is no chance of retrieving the body of Nawab Akbar Bugti from the cave in which he died for four to five days, military spokesman Maj-Gen Shaukat Sultan said on Tuesday.

However, he said, the bodies of three officers and four soldiers who were killed when the cave collapsed while they were entering it had been recovered and buried.

Inter-Service Public Relations (ISPR) director-general told a press conference that heavy machines could not be used to remove the earth as it might cause complete collapse of the cave. He said the entire work was being done manually, with adequate care.

If the cave collapsed further, the process could take even a month, he pointed out.

The general said Rs100 million and $96,000 cash, two satellite phones, documents, eight AK-47 rifles and some rockets were found in the rubble of the cave.

Giving details of the operation, he said armymen had rushed to the nine-foot-wide mouth of the L-shape cave after one of the two guides hired to help locate Nawab Akbar Bugti in the Kohlu area had signalled ‘he was inside’.

However, the general said, no sooner had the soldiers entered the cave a blast of ‘undetermined origin’ brought it down, burying the armymen alive.

No fighting or use of explosives preceded the ‘mysterious’ blast, the military spokesman said, adding that the search party had orders “to apprehend, not to kill” Nawab Bugti.

He said that soldiers had gone into the cave “to negotiate”.

He said Nawab Bugti and military officials had not been killed in any crossfire.

The ISPR chief said he was unaware of the number of Nawab Bugti’s companions who died in the cave.

On Aug 23, he said, two army helicopters were flying over the area where Nawab Bugti and his guards were believed to be hiding when the copters were fired upon from the ground. Despite having been damaged the copters returned to the base camp, he added.

A company of troops was dropped into the hilly area through helicopters on Aug 24 and a search operation was conducted the following day.

The troops, he said, found seven caves and reinforcement was sent on Aug 26 to search the cave one by one.

Maj-Gen Sultan said that two guides, who belonged to the Bugti tribe, had been hired to help troops in the search operation and one of the guides, who had been sent into a cave, rushed back confirming the presence of Nawab Akbar Bugti and some of his guards there.

“Having this information, four army officers, a JCO and two soldiers also rushed towards the cave and when they were at the cave’s opening, suddenly a blast took place and the cave collapsed causing death of army officials and all others who were already there,” he said.

About Nawab Bugti’s grandsons, the ISPR chief said: “There is no official statement that his two grandsons were there and I cannot speak about other members of his family.”

He ruled out the possibility of Nawab Bugti’s killing with the help of satellite phone tracking system. However, he confirmed that two Thuraya telephone sets had been recovered.

Maj-Gen Sultan expressed satisfaction over the law and order situation and said the writ of the government had been restored across the country. He said the operation would continue in parts of Balochistan and there would be no negotiations with ‘miscreants’.