January 23, 2003
Did the Karnataka Special Task Force (STF) or factions within it have a role to play in the alleged encounter leading to the death of forest brigand Veerappan’s hostage, former minister H. Nagappa?
Were any of the 38 empty AK-47 cartridges and three bullets littered in the vicinity of the spot where Nagappa’s body was found fired from a Karnataka STF weapon?
To answer all these questions, a painstaking exercise is currently underway to test-fire all of the AK-47 weapons in the custody of the Karnataka STF and to match them with the empty cartridges and bullets found in the forest following Nagappa’s death.
The exercise, which is being carried out at the firing range of the Gundal Dam STF camp near Kollegal, began a few weeks ago, said STF sources.
To ensure that its operations are not affected while the STF’s AK-47s are being tested, the guns are being sent in small batches of 10s and 15s for test firing, sources said.
The STF has around 150 AK-47 rifles. Test-firing the guns will give police access to empty cartridges and bullets — like those found in the forest — from every rifle.
Through forensic analysis of the markings on the bullet — the mark the firing pin leaves on the cartridge and the marks left on the bullet and cartridge as they fire out of the gun — experts hope to pinpoint the weapon used. The analysis is based on the fact that every gun leaves its own signature mark, like a fingerprint, on its cartridges and bullets.
Incidentally, analysis so far has revealed that all the cartridges and bullets collected from the spot around Nagappa’s body were fired from three to four AK-47 rifles.
The STFs of both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu use AK-47 rifles. Nagappa’s abductor Veerappan is said to have one too. The process of testing the Karnataka STF’s guns is expected to take eight to 10 weeks.
However, by testing the rifles the police may not be able to solve the Nagappa death case; they will only be able to ascertain if weapons of the state’s STF were used in the area where Nagappa’s body was found. Information obtained from the exercise could also be useful for the commission inquiring into the killing, sources said.
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