Today's Paper

Veerappan sighted near Palar?

An STF ambush point in the Palar forest area, on the way to Gopinatham, native place of the forest bandit, Veerappan, in Karnataka. — Photo: K.Ananthan  

METTUR Jan. 25 . The Special Task Forces of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka today intensified the hunt for the forest brigand, Veerappan, along the border on the Palar, near Mettur in Salem district. This action followed pointed intelligence that Veerappan and his gang were found moving in the Vorkahalli forest area near the Palar, according to STF sources.

The bandit is said to have moved towards that area for availability of water and for its being just 18 km from his native place, Gopinatham in Karnataka.

Following interrogation of two tribals, from Yemmanoor hamlet, who had been reportedly entrusted with supplying food and logistics to the gang, the STF concluded that the criminals were moving about within a 30-km radius of the Palar and Hogenakkal in Dharmapuri district, it is said.

The STF was convinced that the brigand might be located in this belt for, Gopinatham villagers could help out the gang, especially when its strength has dwindled to just five. While the Karnataka STF chief and Inspector-General of Police, Jyotiprakash Mirji, was coordinating the operation from the MM Hills STF camp, within 12 hours of the stepped-up hunt, the Tamil Nadu STF, positioned at the Mettur camp, was also deployed in the jungles.

It was being led by the Additional Director-General of Police, R. Nataraj.

The Vorkahalli forest belt was divided into a number of segments and the Tamil Nadu STF companies, in adequate numbers, were being deployed in each. The SPs of the Tamil Nadu STF, M. Ashok Kumar and P. Shanmugavelu, were assisting the ADGP.

To prevent the brigand and his gang crossing over to other segments of the forest, the bifurcating roads have been brought under STF surveillance and armed ambush parties have taken positions from the Palar to MM Hills and from the Palar to Hogenakkal.

Rumours scotched

Earlier in the day, rumours were rife that the Karnataka STF had encountered the gang and that there was an exchange of fire.

These reports have, however, been dismissed as baseless by the STF on either side. Meanwhile, the STF camps in Erode and Salem districts in Tamil Nadu and MM Hills, Chamaraj Nagar and Kollegal in Karnataka witnessed hectic activity in the wake of the intelligence reports on the whereabouts of the gang.

To sustain the pressure on the gang, additional manpower for combing has been drafted from Salem, Dharmapuri, Coimbatore and Madurai districts.

The inter-State road between Mettur and MM Hills has been brought under STF control and a number of checkposts have been put up. The IGP, STF, T.K. Rajendran, has mobilised additional forces to monitor the situation from the Mettur side.

K.T. Sangameswaran reports from Chennai:

When contacted, V. Balachandran, ADGP, headquarters, said there was no police-Veerappan gang encounter on either the Karnataka or Tamil Nadu side. The police here had cross-checked the information with their Karnataka counterparts.

The STF had intensified its vigil to nab the forest brigand. The joint combing operations by the commando units were on in full swing.