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Black Cats hot up bandit trail

Kollegal, Sept. 7: Black Cat commandos today joined Special Task Force units of the Karnataka and Tamil Nadu governments in the hunt for Veerappan after claims that the brigand had been spotted in the Rampura range, bordering Tamil Nadu.

Veerappan and his gang were reportedly seen in the range late last night, according to sources in the special task force. Forces have been rushed to Meenyam in the region.

Karnataka home minister Mallikarjuna Kharge, talking to The Telegraph over phone from Bangalore, confirmed the participation of Central commandos in the combing operations. Nearly 4,000 task force personnel and 150 commandos are on the trail of the bandit, who has been holding former state minister H. Nagappa hostage for close to a fortnight.

The Central team flew to Bangalore last night and was rushed to the Rampura region. Karnataka director-general of police V.V. Bhaskar is overseeing operations in the three main areas of Dinahalli, Meenyam and Nellore.

The operations have acquired a new dimension after chief minister S.M. Krishna rejected the demands Veerappan made in the second cassette he sent a couple of days ago.

The bandit demanded that jailed Tamil nationalist leaders P. Nedumaran and K. Mani be sent as emissaries to negotiate Nagappa’s release.

The Rampura range, about 35 km from Kollegal and over 150 km from Bangalore, has been cordoned off. Villagers have been told not to venture into the forest. Task force sources claimed it was only a “matter of time” before Veerappan is trapped.

Task force sources say they expected the operations to enter a critical phase by Sunday evening. Some officers said they could get into a “direct confrontation” with Veerappan.

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