Madagascan villagers have killed more than 60 cattle thieves in separate attacks in four areas in the south of the island plagued by unrest over rustling, the gendarmerie said Monday.
Authorities have stepped up security in the area to prevent any possible reprisal attacks by the thieves, who are known as dahalos, after 67 were killed in four villages on Friday night.
"Security forces have been dispatched to deal with a possible revenge (attack) by the dahalos," Lieutenant Colonel Tahina Rakotomalala, head of operations of the country's gendarmerie, told AFP.
Twelve villagers were also injured in the attacks and 98 out of 100 stolen zebu, the local breed of cattle, were recovered, Rakotomalala said.
The violence comes after authorities on Sunday said that nine people -- two gendarmes, one policeman and six thieves -- were killed in the southern Ihaborano region of the island.
Theft of the humped cattle -- a prized breed in parts of southern Madagascar -- has surged and grown more violent in recent years.
In June, security forces were deployed in the forests of southwestern Madagascar to crack down on hundreds of armed cattle rustlers. Several deaths of policemen and thieves were reported and around 100 thieves were arrested.
On June 9, the government suspended zebu exports to put a squeeze on rustlers, who are believed to enjoy support from corrupt officials to sell their livestock in the capital.