Madagascar troops are battling over 900 armed bandits in the south-eastern region of the country as humanitarian agencies scramble to evacuate several families caught up in the fighting.
The attackers are thought to be disgruntled former soldiers who are unemployed.
Prime minister Jean Omer Beriziky is leading a delegation of senior government officials including armed forces minister Gal Randrianazary and the state secretary in charge of the National Gendarmerie Julien Reboza to assess the situation in the region.
Hundred of armed bandits recently struck Marovitsika Amboasary Atsimo region killing six police officers and taking away their bodies.
Twelve other police officers reportedly disappeared following the assault.
They also ambushed several villages taking away herds of zebu cattle.
The bandits have warned they will launch further attacks on June 20 forcing the government to spring into quick action by sending armed forces to the region.
“On May 16, nearly 300 bandits stormed five villages, terrorised people, killed some residents, and took away several zebus from the rural commune of Bevoay Tolagnaro,” Mr Adolphe Rasolo, a legislator told journalists in the capital Antananarivo on Wednesday .
“Then 950 or so armed bandits struck again on June 6,” he added.
Mr Alphonse Maka, another parliamentarian from the southern region, said the thugs could collect around 3,000 more zebu cows from the region if not contained.
President Andy Rajoelina has asked for the neutralisation, disarmament, and arrest of the bandits.
The spokesperson of the transitional Security and Defence Commission, Jean Nicolas Randrianasolo said many of the bandits are former soldiers.
“Almost 95 per cent of the former soldiers the state didn’t recruit returned to their villages. They are jobless. So, they were easily tempted to join the local criminal networks,” he said.
The premier on his part said the authorities would investigate the reasons behind the banditry in southern Madagascar.