Government forces, truffle hunters go missing in Syria’s Deir ez-Zor

DEIR EZ-ZOR, Syria (North Press) – A group of civilian truffle hunters, accompanied by militants of National Defense Forces (NDF), affiliated with the Syrian government forces, went missing on Tuesday in the southern countryside of Deir ez-Zor, eastern Syria.

A source from the government forces told North Press that the NDF lost connection with a group of eight militants and 23 civilians who went on Feb. 18 to hunt truffles in the southern countryside of Deir ez-Zor.

Factions affiliated with the government forces, such as the NDF, hire workers to hunt truffles, in return, they pay them low wages.

The militants stayed in contact for two days before losing connection with them on Tuesday, according to the source.

NDF leaders connected with Iranian and Fourth Division leaders who ensured that they do not know anything about the group, according to the source.

The Monitoring and Documentation Department of North Press Agency documented the killing and injury of 266 truffle hunters across Syria at the end of truffle season in 2023.

Each year, hundreds of Syrians risk their lives in the vast Syrian Desert, which produces high-quality truffles. The late winter season is largely seen as an opportunity to earn a good income, due to the high prices paid for the desert delicacy, despite the threats of landmines and Islamic State (ISIS) presence.

On Feb. 15, two truffle hunters were killed by unknown people in the western countryside of Deir ez-Zor.

By Omar Abdurrahman