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Sunday, 8 December, 2002, 13:01 GMT
Bandit's hostage 'injured' in clash
Pritam Nagappa (R), Mr Nagappa's son, after meeting Karnataka's chief minister
Mr Nagappa's family are increasingly anxious
The former minister of the southern Indian state of Karnataka, Mr H Nagappa, is reported to have been injured in a police clash, while in the custody of India's most wanted bandit, Veerappan.

Veerappan kidnapped Mr Nagapps from his home in August this year.

Veerappan is understood to have given details of Mr Nagappa's injury in an audio cassette. .

This is the sixth audio cassette Veerappan has sent to the politician's home.

Bandit Veerappan
Veerappan: Self-styled Robin Hood character
The actual contents of this latest cassette are yet to be confirmed.

"The contents of the tape are not yet known. It has been handed over to the police," said Kiran Patel, a close relative of Mr Nagappa.

Meanwhile, a search operation has been launched in the jungles of Karnataka.

A senior police officer told the BBC that the special task force set up to catch the bandit, has been combing the area where he is believed to have been hiding.

High profile hostage

Veerappan kidnapped Nagappa from his house in Chamrajnagar district of the state, about 100 kilometres from Karnataka's capital Bangalore, on August 25.

Veerappan, wanted for more than 100 murders and elephant-poaching, had earlier threatened to kill Nagappa if his choice of negotiator was not met by the government.

H Nagappa
Nagappa: Snatched from his home
He demanded that a jailed Tamil activist, Kollathur Mani, be sent to his jungle hideout to negotiate Mr Nagappa's release.

Mr Mani has been serving a jail sentence for supplying arms to Veerappan.

Despite some criticism, the government agreed to release Mr Mani and began the legal process to release him.

Though the state high court has granted bail to Mr Mani, he could not be released immediately because of a series of court cases pending against him.

Veerappan's latest claim has caused concern about Mr Nagappa's health.

However, some experts say that this may be Veerappan's way to release his hostages.

In the past, he left his hostages saying either they are injured or too ill to be kept hostage.

See also:

22 Nov 02 | South Asia
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