Truffle hunters killed by ISIS landmines in Syria

One kilogram of truffles sells for up to $10

Discarded landmine lying on the ground in the village of Baghouz in Syria's eastern Deir Ezzor province, in March 2019. AFP
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Ten civilians have been killed in central Syria by landmines planted by terrorists, according to state media, in the latest wave of deadly incidents involving truffle hunters.

“Nine citizens were killed and two others injured” when landmines left by ISIS blew up, the official Sana news agency said. It said the victims had been “on the hunt for truffles in the eastern countryside of Al Salamiyah” in Hama province.

Sana later said that another mine left by ISIS exploded in the same area, “killing one citizen and injuring 10 others”.

At least 112 people, 92 of them civilians, have been killed while hunting for the desert delicacy, either in ISIS attacks or landmine blasts, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Many Syrians forage for desert truffles, which are in season from February to April, to sell and help make ends meet in the war-scarred country.

The Syrian Desert is renowned for producing some of the best quality truffles in the world.

A kilogram of the prized fungus sells for between $5 and $10 in a country where the average monthly salary is about $18.

Truffle digging has resulted in many people, including women and children, losing their lives in Syria's central, north-eastern and eastern regions in recent years.

On February 18, at least 68 truffle hunters in a desert area of neighbouring Homs province were killed in a suspected ISIS attack, said the Observatory, a Britain-based war monitor with a wide network of sources inside Syria.

The Observatory said ISIS, which held sway in Hama province's eastern countryside from 2014 to 2017, was taking advantage of the annual truffle harvest to stage attacks in remote areas.

After the terrorist group lost its last territory in 2019 following a military onslaught backed by a US-led coalition, ISIS terrorists in Syria mostly retreated into desert hideouts in the east.

Explosives left in fields, along roads or even in buildings by all sides in Syria's 12-year conflict have killed hundreds of civilians and wounded thousands more, the Observatory says.

The UN estimates that across Syria more than 10 million people live in areas contaminated by explosive hazards.

Syria's war has claimed the lives of about half a million and displaced millions since it erupted in March 2011, after the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

With reporting from agencies.

Updated: February 28, 2023, 11:12 AM