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Last Updated: Monday, 18 October, 2004, 21:34 GMT 22:34 UK
Death of a legendary bandit
Veerappan
At one point 2,000 police officers were searching for Veerappan
The death of Koose Muniswamy Veerappan removes a thorn in the side of the Indian police, and brings an end to an almost legendary tale of banditry.

India's most notorious fugitive has consistently foiled efforts to capture him, but his life on the run was finally ended in a hail of bullets in the jungle he haunted for decades, police said.

Veerappan - whose name translates as "brave" - was wanted in connection with more than 100 murders.

One of his victims was a former state minister.

He also kidnapped one of the country's most famous film stars, Rajkumar, and held him for 108 days.

Sandalwood smuggler

The tall, wiry bandit with his trademark handlebar moustache came to be considered the country's most ruthless and daring outlaw.

Veerappan began his career in crime as an ivory poacher and is reputed to have killed his first elephant when he was only 14.

He raised a gang in the late 1960s, and went on, according to local legend, to kill about 2,000 elephants.

From elephant poaching, Veerappan graduated to illegal sandalwood smuggling, kidnapping and murder.

He has been accused of smuggling ivory worth $2.6m and sandalwood worth $22m.

His domain was a vast area of forest, bordering the southern states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala. Police there offered a reward of 20 million rupees ($410,000) for his capture.

Reward

In the early 1990s, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka formed a combined task force of nearly 2,000 police officers to comb through the forests.

But they failed to pin down the elusive bandit.

Once, under pressure, Veerappan did make an offer to surrender, demanding total amnesty, huge sums of money and the permission to stay armed.

But the demand was rejected and Veerappan responded by abducting nine forest officials.

The only time Veerappan has been behind bars was in 1986.

However, he escaped, killing four policemen and an unarmed forest official in their sleep.

'Robin Hood'

A major difficulty in arresting the fugitive was his excellent information network, which enabled him to stay one step ahead of law enforcers.

Officials had to plead for more sophisticated intelligence gadgets to beat the fugitive at his tricks.

Veerappan's supporters liked to project him as a kind of Robin Hood figure amongst the locals.

But police said villagers kept silent about Veerappan's movements because of the terror tactics of his gang members, who would kill anybody suspected of being an informer.

Nonetheless, one of his associates eventually betrayed him, according to police.

After a tip-off that he was hiding near the village of Paparapatti in the Dharmapuri region, police moved in in numbers.

After a 20-minute gun battle, they had slain their enemy, and with him a legend.




SEE ALSO:
Indian bandit 'killed by police'
18 Oct 04 |  South Asia
Veerappan hunt a 'waste of time'
01 Jul 03 |  South Asia
South India takes its place
03 Sep 99 |  South Asia


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