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Eight truffle-hunters dead in Syria landmine blast: monitor

Many Syrians forage for desert truffles when they are in season between February and April, hoping to sell the delicacy for high prices to help make ends meet in the war-torn country
— Beirut (AFP)

Eight truffle-hunters were killed and more than 30 injured in eastern Syria when the vehicle they were travelling in hit a landmine, a war monitor said Thursday.

"Eight citizens were killed and at least 35 wounded when a landmine... exploded as they were travelling to look for truffles on the outskirts of Deir Ezzor," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

State news agency SANA blamed Islamic State group jihadists for planting the mine.

On Monday, landmines blamed on IS killed 14 people, mostly truffle hunters, in Hama province to the west, the Observatory said, updating an earlier toll after more bodies were found.

Last month, jihadists on motorcycles opened fire on truffle hunters in a desert area of central Syria, killing 61 civilians and seven soldiers, the Britain-based monitoring group said.

Many Syrians forage for desert truffles when they are in season from February to April, hoping to sell the delicacy at high prices to 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 (2.2 pounds) of the prized fungus sells for between $5 and $10 in a country where the average monthly wage is around $18.

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

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, the Observatory says.

IS jihadists lost their last scraps of territory in Syria in March 2019 following a military offensive backed by a US-led coalition.

Remnants of the group mostly retreated into hideouts in the desert that covers much of eastern and east-central Syria.

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