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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 October, 2004, 09:08 GMT 10:08 UK
Notorious Indian bandit shot dead
Veerappan: At large since 1986
Police in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu say they have shot dead one of India's most wanted men, the bandit known as Veerappan.

Police say he was killed along with three associates in a jungle forest.

Veerappan, a Tamil, was accused of more than 100 murders as well as kidnapping, smuggling and poaching and had been on the run for some 20 years.

A post mortem is being conducted in the town of Dharmapuri, where a huge crowd gathered outside the hospital.

A tall, wiry man with a trademark handlebar moustache, Veerappan had been considered the country's most ruthless and daring bandit.

One of his victims, leading south Indian actor Rajkumar, said he was happy and relieved to see the end of Veerappan, who held him and three others hostage four years ago.

Intelligence 'tip-off'

The BBC's Sampath Kumar in Madras says Veerappan was killed when the team specially established to catch him - the Special Task Force - received information that he was travelling on the main road from Dharmapuri.

The Indian government had offered a 50m rupee ($1.1m) reward for any information leading to Veerappan's arrest.

Special Task Force chief K Vijay Kumar said police surrounded Veerappan and his associates near the village of Paparapatti, some 320km (200 miles) southwest of Madras.

Killed first elephant aged 14
Accused of smuggling ivory worth $2.6m and sandalwood worth $22m
Escaped from behind the bars in 1986 by killing four policemen and an unarmed forest official in their sleep
Operated mainly in the forests bordering states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu

"We announced on the speakers fitted to our jeeps that since he was surrounded and there was no way he could escape, he and his associates should give themselves up," Mr Kumar told the AFP news agency

"There was silence for about a minute and then, there was firing from the other side. We took cover and returned the fire, killing Veerappan and his three associates," he said.

Police had been hunting Veerappan in forests on Tamil Nadu's border with the neighbouring state of Karnataka.

The Tamil Nadu chief minister, Jayalalitha, has congratulated police for what she called the "daring operation in which the notorious bandit was killed".

Karnataka's chief minister has announced free housing for police who took part.

The fugitive was involved in the kidnapping two years ago of former state minister of Karnataka, H Nagappa, who was found dead after three months in captivity.

He was also involved in the kidnapping of Rajkumar, who was released after 108 days of captivity - allegedly for a huge ransom.

Speaking to reporters in Bangalore, the actor - now in his late 70s - said police should have killed Veerappan earlier.

"Anti-social elements like Veerappan should not be allowed to live," he said.

Since 1993, Veerappan had offered to surrender to the police on three occasions, always demanding that he be given a blanket amnesty.

But the authorities always insisted that he should first lay down his arms and surrender.

There had been allegations that he had close links with some banned extremist Tamil nationalist groups as well as Tamil Tiger separatists in Sri Lanka.

How Veerappan became India's most notorious bandit

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18 Oct 04  |  South Asia
Veerappan hunt a 'waste of time'
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Indian police hunt bandit online
18 Feb 03  |  South Asia
India ups bandit reward
31 Dec 02  |  South Asia
The hunt for India's elusive bandit
09 Dec 02  |  South Asia
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09 Dec 02  |  South Asia
Indian bandit 'was paid ransom'
22 Nov 02  |  South Asia

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