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Police kill India's 'Robin Hood'


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Veerappan, pictured here in 1998 at one of his jungle hideouts.
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India's most-wanted criminal, known as Veerappan, dies in gunbattle with police.
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(CNN) -- India's most wanted criminal, who once boasted of cutting up his victims and feeding them to fish, has been shot dead in an hour-long gunbattle with police in a jungle in southern India.

The man known as Veerappan was killed, along with three of his associates, in a gunfight with Special Task Force members around 10:50 p.m. (4:20 p.m. GMT) Monday in a forest in the Tamil Nadu state, Indian police said.

Police said they had received information on Veerappan's whereabouts in the jungle and went to the location where they spotted a car.

After firing warning shots and an exchange of gunfire, police said, they hurled a stun grenade and later confirmed Veerappan had been killed.

Veerappan had eluded authorities for decades.

He was accused of killing 120 people, many of them police and forestry officials, and of making millions of dollars from poaching elephants and smuggling sandalwood, which is used in the perfume industry.

Known for his handlebar moustache, Veerappan had gained notoriety throughout the country for his ability to escape capture and for his brazen attacks on authorities.

Many compared him to a modern-day Robin Hood, operating in the jungles and carrying out crimes against the rich to help the poor.

His career in crime spanned decades, but it was in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s that his crime spree intensified.

He often boasted of beheading his victims and once said he cut up his victims and fed them to fish.

In 1993, a special task force was set up to try to capture him, but until Monday he had been able to escape its best efforts to nab him.

Authorities had said his jungle hamlets were often booby-trapped and heavily mined, and because he was well liked among the nation's poor, it was often difficult to find informants willing to turn against him.

He gained international headlines in July 2000 when he kidnapped India's most popular movie star, Rajkumar, only to release him unharmed that November.

So determined were Indian authorities to capture him, the government once considered enlisting the Army to go after him, although that plan was ultimately turned down.

Authorities often compared Veerappan to a cobra -- able to strike quickly with lethal force.

"He lies low and hits as and when he gets an opportunity," Maj. Gen. MP Bhagat, the inspector general of the National Security Guard, once told the Hindustan Times.

Although Veerappan had been on the run for more than four decades, he was taken into custody in 1986, but was released after paying a $2,000 bribe.


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