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HomeWorld News19 truffle hunters in Syria killed by landmine blast

19 truffle hunters in Syria killed by landmine blast

At least 19 people searching for truffles in the north Syria desert were killed Saturday after their vehicle hit a landmine, a war monitor said.

Between February and April each year, hundreds of impoverished Syrians risk their lives searching for truffles in the vast Syrian Desert, or Badia – a known hideout for jihadists that is also littered with mines.

Nineteen civilians, including 12 women, were killed and several others were wounded when their small truck hit a mine in an area where Islamic State group (IS) extremists are present in Raqa province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The Britain-based Observatory said the truck was carrying more than 20 civilians who were searching for desert truffles, which fetch high prices in a country battered by 13 years of war and a crushing economic crisis.

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Recent weeks have seen repeated deadly mine blasts as Syrians hunt for truffles. Authorities have frequently warned against the high-risk practice.

Earlier this month, gunmen thought to be linked to IS killed 18 people, mostly civilians, in a desert attack on a group of truffle hunters, the Observatory reported.

Last month, state media said a landmine left by IS killed 14 people foraging for truffles in the Raqa desert.

In March 2019, IS lost its last scraps of territory in Syria following a military campaign backed by a US-led coalition but jihadist remnants continue to hide in the desert and launch deadly attacks.

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They have ambushed civilians as well as Kurdish-led forces, Syrian government troops and pro-Iran fighters, while also mounting attacks in neighbouring Iraq.

Meanwhile, Israeli airstrikes hit several sites in southern Syria early Sunday wounding a soldier, Syrian state media reported.

State news agency SANA, citing an unnamed military official, said air defences shot down some of the missiles, which came from the direction of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights at around 12.42am local time.

Additional reporting by Associated Press

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