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Sunday, 10 December, 2000, 02:00 GMT
Indian soldiers join bandit manhunt
Veerappan with Gopal
Veerappan (left) is India's most wanted criminal
By Habib Beary in Bangalore

Soldiers of the paramilitary Indian Border Security Force (BSF) have launched a big operation to catch India's most wanted bandit, Veerappan.

Delhi despatched the BSF men to the forest following a request from the state government of Karnataka.

The state authorities have only recently secured the safe release of one of India's most popular film-actors, Rajkumar, from Veerappan's custody after a three-month long rescue mission.

This is the second time in six years that the BSF, primarily meant to guard India's borders, has been despatched to the jungle that straddles the two neighbouring southern states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

Rajkumar
Film star Rajkumar: Released after 100 days in captivity
Its men will reinforce a 2,000-strong team of policemen from the two states who are currently icombing the forest in an attempt to catch Veerappan.

Three thousand policemen, including 1,000 BSF personnel, will be involved in the anti-Veerappan operations, being described as one of the biggest ever launched in south India.

Veerappan, wanted for more than 120 murders, has been on the run since he escaped from jail in Karnataka in 1986.

Elusive

But officials of the combined special task force told the BBC that they were sceptical about catching the elusive bandit.

Veerappan operates in a terrain of thick forest stretching over 8,000 square kilometres.

They say it is an uphill task even for the BSF considering the bandit's knowledge of the terrain and his vast intelligence network.

They also said that the locals, who reportedly know about the bandit's movements, are not giving away any information.

The BSF's first mission, conducted about seven years ago, ended in failure.

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See also:

15 Nov 00 | South Asia
India celebrates film star's release
16 Nov 00 | South Asia
Mystery surrounds Rajkumar release
01 Aug 00 | South Asia
Kidnap drama paralyses Bangalore
31 Jul 00 | South Asia
Bandit kidnaps top film star
31 Jul 00 | South Asia
A ruthless and daring bandit
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