BEIRUT (AP) — Islamic State militants have killed 26 people who were foraging for wild truffles in Syria’s Hama region, opposition and state media reported Sunday.
Amid the economic devastation of Syria’s yearslong war, foraging for truffles can help people earn money, as the seasonal delicacy fetches a high price.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition media group based in Britain, said civilians and military personnel were among the victims of the armed attack in the eastern outskirts of the city of Hama, 115 miles (186 kilometers) north of the capital Damascus.
State news agency SANA said that the attack was carried out by members of the Islamic State group.
Despite their defeat in Syria in March 2019, the militant group’s sleeper cells still carry out deadly attacks both in Syria and Iraq where they once held territories and declared a “caliphate.”
Since the truffle hunters work in large groups in remote areas, IS militants have repeatedly preyed on them, emerging from the desert to abduct them, kill some and ransom others for money.
In February, IS sleeper cells attacked workers collecting truffles near the central town of Sukhna, killing at least 53 people, mostly workers but also some Syrian government security forces.
Earlier this month, six people were killed by a land mine planted by the Islamic State group in the southern Deir Ez-Zor province also while foraging for truffles, according to state-run news agency SANA.