IS truffle picker attacks and killed 26 in a Syrian desert ambush

By Rek Hanibal Published on April 17, 2023
IS truffle picker attacks and killed 26 in a Syrian desert ambush

Civilians and pro-government fighters were among the victims of the attack on Sunday in Hama province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

IS militants have repeatedly preyed on those searching for the fungus, with more than 150 people killed this year.

A kilogram (2.2lb) can fetch more than the country's average monthly wage. 

Syria's state-run Sana news agency cited a police source as saying that IS militants attacked a group of civilians in the village of Duwaizin in the eastern countryside of Hama, killing 26 of them.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a UK-based monitoring group that relies on a vast network of sources on the ground in Syria, put the death toll at 36 and said the victims included at least 17 fighters from the pro-government National Defence Forces.

Searching for the truffles is extremely dangerous as hunters contend with landmines, and IS fighters maintain hideouts in the desert where they grow. 

But many who face poverty and unemployment exacerbated by Syria's war risk the dangers as the fungus can sell for up to US$25 (£20) per kg depending on size and grade in a country where the average monthly wage is around $18 (£14).

The window of time to make money is small as the truffle season only lasts from February to April. 

There have been several attacks on foragerecently, with women and children among the victims. 

Last month, 15 truffle hunters were killed in central Syria, according to the SOHR. Dozens of others were also reported to have gone missing. 

Another incident in February saw dozens of people massacred in an ambush in the western region of Homs, carried out by gunmen who suddenly appeared out of the desert on motorbikes. 

Days earlier, 16 people, mostly civilians, were killed in a similar attack targeting foragers in the same area.

In 2014, IS militants seized large swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq, imposing its brutal rule on almost eight million people.

The group was driven from its last piece of territory in 2019, but it is estimated to still have 5,000 to 7,000 members and supporters spread between the two countries, roughly half of whom are fighters.

Syria has been devastated by a 12-year-long civil war that erupted after President Bashar al-Assad's government responded with deadly force to peaceful pro-democracy protests.

The fighting has left half a million people dead and caused half the population to flee their homes, including almost six million refugees abroad. 

More than 15 million people inside Syria require humanitarian assistance, including close to 9 million affected by the huge earthquake that struck neighbouring Turkey in February.

Rek Hanibal

Rek Hanibal

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