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161 killed in Madagascar rustling violence

An army official in Madagascar says at least 161 people, including nearly a dozen soldiers, were killed in cattle theft-related violence in the African island country in 2015 .

“We have had a rather heavy toll: 11 killed and about 30 wounded among soldiers and some 100 dead, 150 to be precise, for the dahalos (rustlers),” Madagascan army General Beni Xavier Rasolofonirina said on Wednesday.

Rustling violence was mostly reported over hunting humped zebu, a practice that has been on the rise in Madagascar in recent years.

Stealing zebus, animals that are symbols of wealth and are at the heart of the local culture in southern Madagascar, stokes inter-communal violence.

The animals are then sold to the nearby island nation of Comoros, despite a government ban.

“In a context in which the [local] gendarmes were not able to carry out their internal security functions,” the army launched a five-month “pacification operation” that mobilized 1,300 soldiers, Rasolofonirina said.

The Madagascan civil society has slammed the army’s use of violence during these operations, accusing it of carrying out extra-judicial killings.

Rasolofonirina  said, “We leave it to the gendarmerie to carry out investigations if there are complaints; and if they are substantiated, it is up to the courts to deliver a punishment.”

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