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Beirut: At least 16 people searching for truffles in the north Syria desert were killed Saturday after their vehicle hit a landmine, a war monitor said.

Between February and April each year, hundreds of impoverished Syrians risk their lives searching for truffles in the vast Syrian desert, or Badia - a known hideout for jihadists that is also littered with mines.

"Sixteen civilians including at least nine women were killed and others seriously wounded" when their small truck hit a mine in an area where Daesh (IS) group extremists are present in Raqa province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The Britain-based Observatory said the truck was carrying more than 20 civilians who were searching for desert truffles, which fetch high prices in a country battered by 13 years of war and a crushing economic crisis.

Recent weeks have seen repeated deadly mine blasts as Syrians hunt for truffles.

Authorities have frequently warned against the high-risk practice.