At least 26 people were killed in an ambush in the Syrian desert by IS truffle pickers

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A kilogram (2.2lb) of the underground fungus can bring more than Syria’s monthly income. Image: AFP

State media and activists report that the Islamic State group has killed a minimum of 26 individuals who were hunting for valuable truffles in the Syrian desert.

According to reports from both state media and activists, the Islamic State (IS) group has attacked and killed civilians and pro-government fighters who were searching for valuable truffles in Syria’s Hama province.

The attack took place on Sunday and resulted in the deaths of at least 26 people, with the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) estimating the death toll at 36.

This year, IS militants have repeatedly targeted those searching for truffles, with over 150 people killed.

The search for truffles is hazardous, as hunters face landmines and must navigate IS fighters’ hideouts in the desert where the fungus grows.

Nevertheless, many risk these dangers as the truffles can be sold for up to US$25 (£20) per kg, which is significantly higher than Syria’s average monthly wage of around $18 (£14).

The truffle season only lasts from February to April, and several attacks have occurred in recent months, including one last month where 15 truffle hunters were killed.

Syria has been ravaged by a 12-year-long civil war, and more than 15 million people require humanitarian assistance, including close to 9 million affected by a recent earthquake in neighboring Turkey.

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