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Saturday, 7 September, 2002, 09:53 GMT 10:53 UK
Police step up bandit hunt
Meeting between Gopal and Veerappan during kidnap of Rajkumar
Veerappan (left) wants intermediaries appointed
Elite commandos have been put on stand-by in the Indian state of Karnataka amid reports that the bandit has been spotted in a particular area of forest.

Some reports said the bandit was recently spotted on a hill near Kollegal, 120 km from Mysore in Karnataka state.

The area has been surrounded by the security forces.

Police officials have refused to give details of the operation, but reports said helicopters were being used to locate the bandit.

Earlier, a team of National Security Guards, popularly known as Black Cat commandos, were despatched from Delhi to assist the Special Task Force which is hunting for the bandit.

Veerappan is holding a former state minister H Nagappa as hostage for nearly two weeks and has threatened to kill him.

Troubled dialogue

Security forces intensified the search after efforts to initiate a dialogue with the bandit ran into difficulties.

H Nagappa
Nagappa: Snatched from his home

Veerappan sent audio cassettes demanding that two jailed Tamil nationalist leaders negotiate in the crisis.

The cassettes were sent to the state government of Karnataka and family members of the former minister.

The bandit has demanded the government appoint Kollathur Mani and P Nedumaran as mediators.

While the authorities in Karnataka have not ruled out negotiations, they have expressed their inability to appoint prisoners as emissaries.

Meanwhile, family members of the former minister say they are against any police action.

'Risky' operation

They say a police assault could endanger the hostage's life.

Veerappan has demanded release of prisoners

Mr Nagappa's wife, Parimala, spoke to Karnataka's Home Minister, Mallikarjun Kharge, on Saturday and requested him to call off the operation against the bandit.

Delhi deployed paramilitary troops on two earlier occasions to assist police in hunting the country's most wanted man but without any success.

Veerappan is known to operate in forests bordering the states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

He is wanted for more than 100 murders, most of them police and forestry officials.

He is also wanted for elephant poaching and sandalwood smuggling from forests in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu states.

The bandit has been on the run for more than 30 years.

See also:

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16 Nov 00 | South Asia
28 Sep 00 | South Asia
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