Niamey - A top Niger official on Friday accused Boko Haram jihadists from neighbouring Nigeria of waging a "scorched-earth" offensive on the country's southeast following a series of bloody cross-border raids.
"Mosques, grocery stores, homes, vehicles, motorbikes - Boko Haram burns everything in its path. Boko Haram is conducting a scorched-earth policy," Colonel Mahamadou Abou Tarka, who heads a government authority for conflict resolution, said on state television during a visit to the border region of Diffa.
Tarka was dispatched by President Mahamadou Issoufou to survey the damage wrought by the jihadists in places like Alibidirim, a village 30km from the provincial capital of Diffa where four people, including the village chief, were killed by Boko Haram on November 29 according to state television.
A local official told AFP the assailants, who were often heavily armed, usually struck under cover of darkness, after crossing into Niger across the Komadougou Yobe River that acts as a natural border with Nigeria to the south.
Tarka said the "main problem" was that the extremists usually slipped back across the frontier before they could be caught and predicted the unrest would continue until the jihadists had been flushed out of their Nigerian strongholds.
Boko Haram, which pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group in March, has stepped up attacks on areas of Niger, Chad and Cameroon that border Nigeria while also continuing a devastating campaign of suicide and shooting attacks on home soil.
The group's six-year campaign for a hardline Islamic state in northeast Nigeria has killed at least 17 000 people and made more than 2.6 million others homeless.