Skip to main content

ISIS kills 11 truffle hunters in Syria amid signs of resurgence

Syrians hunt the prized mushrooms due to the dismal economic situation in the country, braving attacks by a resurgent Islamic State.
LOUAI BESHARA/AFP via Getty Images

The Islamic State killed at least 11 truffle hunters in Syria on Sunday, according to a war monitor, in another sign of the group’s resurgence in the country.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that ISIS detonated a mine and then opened fire on the group in the desert near Raqqa, northern Syria. Two Syrian civilians were killed along with nine members of the pro-Syrian government National Defense Forces. ISIS kidnapped three of the truffle hunters, according to the observatory.

Truffles, a type of mushroom, grow in Syria during the rainy months from February to April.

Why it matters: ISIS lost its last territory in Syria in 2019, but has remained active since then.

Gen. Michael Kurilla, who heads US Central Command, told the House Armed Services Committee last week that US intelligence estimates there are around 1,500 ISIS fighters at large in Syria.

ISIS is particularly active in the vast Syrian desert, and truffle hunters are regular targets of the group. ISIS killed 18 truffle hunters in eastern Syria earlier this month. In February, 14 were killed in the Raqqa desert by an ISIS land mine.

Gen. Mazloum Kobane, who leads the US-backed and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in northeast Syria, told reporters last month that ISIS is experiencing a resurgence in Syria amid the Iran-backed militia attacks on US forces in Syria related to the Gaza war.

"We're seeing that ISIS is taking the benefit from all these attacks, and we have seen a spike in movements of ISIS,” said Kobane.

Know more: Many Syrians brave the risks of collecting truffles due to the country's bleak economic situation. The Syrian economy has been ravaged by years of civil war, government mismanagement and US sanctions. A kilogram of truffles can sell for $25 while an average monthly wage is $18, according to an April 2023 report from Agence France-Presse.

The weak Syrian economy has sparked protests. Large demonstrations broke out in southern Syria’s Suwayda last August after the government lifted fuel subsidies, leading to rising prices. The protests have continued on and off since then, and one protester was killed by security forces last month.