Sand truffle collectors and shepherds were targeted. At least 41 people, including 24 civilians, were killed on Sunday in Syria in two attacks attributed to Daesh. The jihadist group “killed 36 people on Sunday while they were picking desert truffles in eastern Hama (center)”, said the director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (OSDH), Rami Abdel Rahmane, specifying that 17 of them were pro-regime fighters.
The official Sana agency reported on its side 26 dead. In the desert in the east of the country, men suspected of belonging to the ultra-radical organization and perched on motorcycles opened fire and killed five shepherds in the province of Deir Ezzor, before seizing cattle, a added the NGO which has an extensive network of sources in Syria. The Sana agency also provided a death toll of 5, stating that the jihadists opened fire on the cattle, killing 250 sheep.
Cells scattered in the desert
Two other shepherds were kidnapped, according to the OSDH. In the same province, the decomposed bodies of two civilians were found. According to the OSDH, they had been killed a few days earlier by members of Daesh, while they were also picking up sand truffles. More than 240 people, mostly civilians, have been killed since early February picking up sand truffles sold for gold, during attacks by Daesh fighters in the desert or in mine explosions, according to a count of the OSDH.
The jihadist group which controlled large territories from 2014 in Syria, was territorially defeated in March 2019 in this country, by an international anti-jihadist coalition led by the United States and the Kurds. Since the beginning of the year, cells of Daesh scattered in the desert have however multiplied the deadly attacks there.
A lucrative high-risk business
According to the OSDH, Daesh jihadists often attack residents who go looking for truffles in remote areas. In a country with an economy devastated by more than a decade of war and heavy international sanctions and where the average monthly salary is around 18 dollars, harvesting truffles can be a very interesting livelihood.
The kilo of truffles costs from five to 25 dollars, depending on the size and quality. Less fragrant than French or Italian truffles, sand truffles can only be picked during the rainy season, between February and April. Despite frequent warnings from the authorities, this high-risk activity continues. In mid-February, 68 people, including 61 civilians and seven soldiers, were killed in the eastern province of Homs (center) in an attack attributed to IS.