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At least 53 people were killed Friday in an attack in central Syria blamed on the Islamic State group, state media reported. “Fifty-three citizens who were truffle hunting were killed during an attack by the terrorists of IS to the southwest of the town of Al-Sokhna” east of Homs, state television said.

The director of Palmyra hospital, Walid Audi, said those killed were 46 civilians and seven soldiers.

Audi told pro-government radio station Sham FM that their bodies had “been brought to the hospital after the ambush” that targeted dozens.

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The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights had also reported the attack earlier on Friday.

Many people, including women and children, have been targeted in recent years while truffle hunting in central, northeastern and eastern areas of Syria.

Sixteen people, mostly civilians, were killed on Saturday in a similar attack targeting foragers in the same area, said the Observatory, which relies on a wide network of sources on the ground in Syria.

Dozens of others were kidnapped in the attack, the Observatory said, adding that 25 of them were released but the fate of the others remains unknown.

And in April 2021, the extremist group launched a similar attack, abducting 19 people, mostly civilians, in the eastern countryside of Hama province.

After the jihadists lost their last scraps of territory following a military onslaught backed by a US-led coalition in March 2019, IS remnants in Syria mostly retreated to hideouts in the desert.

They have since used such hideouts to ambush Kurdish-led forces and Syrian government troops while continuing to mount attacks in neighbouring Iraq.

Syrian and Russian helicopters continue to launch air strikes targeting IS desert hideouts.


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