Syria landmine blasts kill 10 truffle hunters: Media

AFP , Monday 27 Feb 2023

Landmines planted by jihadists killed 10 civilians in central Syria on Monday, state media reported, in the latest in a wave of deadly incidents involving truffle hunters.

File Photo: Ordnance is blown up during a training session to clear munitions in the countryside near the Syrian capital Damascus. AFP


"Nine citizens were killed and two others injured" when a landmine left by Islamic State (IS) group militants 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 IS 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 IS attacks or landmine blasts, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor.

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

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

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

Truffle digging has seen many people, including women and children, lose their lives in Syria's central, northeastern 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 IS attack, said the Observatory, a Britain-based monitor with a wide network of sources inside Syria.

The Observatory said IS, 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 jihadists lost the last territory they controlled following a military onslaught backed by a US-led coalition in March 2019, IS remnants 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.

Across Syria, more than 10 million people live in areas contaminated by explosive hazards, the United Nations has said.

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

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