Suspected ISIS militants kill three truffle hunters, kidnap 26 others in Syria

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Suspected ISIS militants on Saturday killed three truffle hunters and kidnapped at least 26 others in northern Syria, a war monitor said, in the latest attack during this year’s harvest.

“Armed men likely affiliated with ISIS cells targeted truffle hunters” in the desert southeast of Aleppo, “killing three by cutting their throats and kidnapping at least 26 others, including women,” said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The attack on the civilians happened near positions held by pro-Iran forces, said the Britain-based Observatory, which relies on a wide network of sources in Syria.

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Syrian state media did not immediately report the incident.

Between February and April each year, hundreds of impoverished Syrians search for truffles in the vast Syrian Desert, or Badia - a known hideout for extremists that is also littered with landmines.

Since February, 139 people - 120 of them civilians-- have been killed by ISIS attacks targeting truffle hunters or mines left by the extremists, according to the Observatory.

After the extremists lost their last scraps of territory in March 2019 following a military onslaught backed by a US-led coalition, ISIS remnants in Syria mostly retreated to hideouts in the desert.

They have since used such hideouts to ambush civilians, Kurdish-led forces, Syrian government troops and pro-Iranian fighters, while also mounting attacks in neighboring Iraq.

Syria’s desert truffles fetch high prices in a country battered by 12 years of war and a crushing economic crisis.

Foragers risk their lives to collect the delicacies despite repeated warnings about landmines and ISIS fighters.

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