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Monday, 31 July, 2000, 12:42 GMT 13:42 UK
A ruthless and daring bandit
Bandit Veerappan
Veerappan started his career as an elephant poacher
India's most notorious fugitive, Veerappan, carries a $33,000 reward on his head and is wanted by the police in connection with 120 murders.

The tall, wiry man with a fierce handlebar moustache is considered the country's most ruthless and daring bandit.

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

Veerappan profile
Began as an ivory poacher, killing his first elephant at 14
Accused of smuggling ivory worth $2.3m and sandalwood worth $22.3m
Accused of over 100 murders
Carries a reward of $33,000 on his head
Since then, popular legend says he has killed about 2,000 elephants.

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

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

He operates mainly in the forests bordering the southern states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, though he has occasionally struck in Kerala too.

Task force

In the early 1990s, the three states formed a combined task force of about 15,000 police personnel to comb through the forests.

Under pressure, Veerappan made an offer of 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 the bars was in 1986.

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

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

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

The police, however, says villagers remain silent about Veerappan's movements because of the terror tactics of his gang members, who kill anybody suspected of being an informer.

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