Madagascar hunts cattle gang after 32 people killed in fires

Officers tasked with hunting the cattle rustlers looking at a map in Madagascar - 30 July 2022

The defence ministry says air force pilots have been asked to find the gang

Army helicopters have been deployed in Madagascar to search for a criminal gang that killed at least 32 people by setting fire to their homes.

The police said the people were forced inside three thatched houses that were then set ablaze.

Women and children were among the victims of Friday’s attack in Ankazobe district north of the capital, Antananarivo.

The defence minister blamed cattle rustlers known locally as “dahalo”.

Cattle theft – and the efforts to stop it – have led to extremely violent confrontations in recent years.

Footage from the village of Ambolotarakely, which is located on a small hill in Ankazobe district, showed homes that had been burnt to the ground with just parts of the walls still standing.

The minister of defence, who visited the area after the attack, said he suspected the community had been targeted for providing information to officials during a previous security operation against the gang.

“We will hunt down those who committed this crime and their accomplices,” Gen Richard Rakotonirina said.

He also visited those in hospital, where three remain in intensive care.

The community affected in Ankazobe, Madagascar - 30 July 2022

The defence minister assured the community those behind the attack would be caught