More than 20 civilians were killed Sunday in central Syria when a landmine left behind by jihadists exploded under a van, the state news agency SANA said.
The ordnance left behind by the ISIS group in the town of Salamiyeh killed farmworkers who were heading to a region in the Hama province to pick truffles, SANA said, citing local police.
It was the second such incident since February 8 when a landmine that had been planted by ISIS militants in rural Hama exploded killing seven civilians, SANA said.
ISIS had a presence in Hama's countryside before the Syrian army drove the jihadists from the area in 2017.
Before withdrawing they had planted mines in the area and rigged buildings with explosives, a tactic they have used in other areas as well.
More than 1,000 foreign militants could still be sheltering among civilians in ISIS’s final stronghold in
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militia has surrounded the militants at the village of Baghouz near the Iraqi border and is trying to complete an evacuation of civilians from the tiny area before storming it or forcing a surrender.
Throughout its steady advance across the Syrian stretch of ISIS’s proto-state, the SDF has been slowed by the group’s extensive use of tunnels and human shields — tactics it says are still being deployed in Baghouz.
“It is expected that there are still undiscovered tunnels, even rooms underground,” said Mustafa Bali, an SDF spokesman. “This creates a military problem for us.”
The capture of Baghouz will end a campaign of conventional warfare which began in the ruins of Kobani on Syria’s border with Turkey in late 2014, when the SDF’s strongest component, the Kurdish YPG militia, halted the militant advance.
Despite the loss of its territory in Iraq and Syria, however, local and Western officials warn the militant group will still pose a threat there, going underground and using guerrilla tactics.