Suspected ISIS attack on Syria truffle hunters kills 18: Monitor

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Gunmen thought to be linked to ISIS in Syria killed 18 people searching for truffles in the desert Wednesday, a war monitor said.

More than 50 people remained missing after the attack that saw heavy clashes with pro-government forces, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

“Eighteen people were confirmed killed, including four pro-government fighters... while more than 50 are still missing, after an attack launched by gunmen likely affiliated with ISIS,” it said.

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The extremists attacked the group with machine guns, said the Britain-based monitoring group with a network of sources inside Syria. The clashes left about a dozen cars burnt, it added.

The Syrian desert is renowned for producing some of the world’s best quality truffles, which fetch high prices in a country battered by 13 years of war and a crushing economic crisis.

Every year between February and April, foragers risk their lives, defying official warnings, to collect the delicacies in the vast northern Syrian desert, or Badia -- a known hideout for extremists that is also littered with landmines.

Last month, a blast from a landmine left by ISIS killed 14 people foraging for desert truffles, state media said.
ISIS lost its last scraps of territory in Syria in March 2019, following a military campaign backed by a US-led coalition, but extremist remnants continue to hide in the desert and launch deadly attacks.

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

Syria’s war has killed more than half a million people and displaced millions more since it broke out in March 2011 with Damascus’s brutal repression of anti-government protests.

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