In Madagascar, Cattle Theft Is Lucrative, Violent and Hard to Address

In Madagascar, Cattle Theft Is Lucrative, Violent and Hard to Address
Men dig for water in the dry Mandrare river bed, in Fenoaivo, Madagascar, Nov. 9, 2020 (AP photo by Laetitia Bezain).

At least 32 people were killed and several others injured on July 29 when bandits attacked the village of Ambolotarakely, about 50 miles north of Madagascar’s capital, Antananarivo. According to law enforcement officials, the assailants rounded up the victims inside three houses before setting them on fire. The village has now been left deserted, after survivors fled amid fears of more attacks.

The attack has been blamed by security officials on cattle rustlers, known locally as dahalo, although that has yet to be proven. Earlier this week, authorities announced the arrest of five individuals suspected to have ties to the gang blamed for the attack, after army helicopters were deployed to locate the suspects and help ground troops search the area. Madagascar’s defense minister, Gen. Richard Rakotonirina, said that the assault was likely an act of revenge against community members for collaborating with security personnel during previous operations against the gang in question and other armed groups.

President Andry Rajoelina condemned the attack, vowing that the culprits would be punished. “We must find the perpetrators of this massacre and prosecute them according to existing law,” he said, adding that the Malagasy army will assume responsibility for securing local populations.

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