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Three truffle pickers killed in Deir Ezzor desert: Activists

At least three people searching for valuable truffles in the Deir Ezzor desert have been killed by the suspected Iran-run militia, local activists told Zaman al-Wasl on Friday.

Two truffle pickers were also killed on Wednesday night, after they were targeted by unknown gunmen, likely affiliated with Iranian militias, in the al-Masrab desert in the western countryside of Deir Ezzor, in eastern Syria.

The "Fourth Division" issued a circular on Thursday prohibiting civilians from heading to the western desert of Deir ez-Zor, under the pretext of the presence of Islamic State cells, while the Fourth Division is trying to monopolize the "truffle" crop in partnership with the rest of the militias affiliated with the regime. 
A kilogram (2.2lb) can fetch more than the country's average monthly wage.

Searching for the truffles is extremely dangerous as hunters contend with landmines and IS fighters maintain hideouts in the desert where they grow, according to the BBC.

But many who face poverty and unemployment exacerbated by Syria's war risk the dangers as the fungus can sell for up to US$25 per kg depending on size and grade in a country where the average monthly wage is around $18.

As the conflict, now in its 13th year, reached a stalemate, the Syrian government reclaimed large swathes of lost territory with the help of its key allies in Russia and Iran in recent years.

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