The death toll from an attack blamed on the Islamic State group in Syria has risen to 68, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Saturday, making it the deadliest attack in over a year.
"A total of 61 civilians and seven soldiers have been killed in the attack," said the Observatory's head Rami Abdel Rahman.
The Britain-based Observatory, which has a wide network of sources inside Syria, said the attack was carried out Friday by jihadists on motorcycles, who opened fire on truffle hunters.
The monitor said that IS was taking advantage of the annual harvest of the desert fungus delicacy, which generally runs February to April, to carry out attacks in remote locations.
The attack brings the total number killed in suspected IS attacks since Feb. 10 to 90, with a string of other killings in recent days, the Observatory said. IS did not immediately claim the attack on its usual channels.
Syrian state media reported 53 deaths Friday, after the attack southwest of the desert town of Al-Sokhna, east of Homs.
It was the deadliest IS attack since January last year, when they stormed a prison in the Kurdish-controlled northeastern city of Hasakeh in a bid to free fellow jihadists. The ensuing fighting inside the city killed 105 people, mostly civilians, as well as 268 jihadists.
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 desert hideouts.
From these locations they have launched actions to ambush Kurdish-led forces and Syrian government troops, while continuing to mount attacks in neighboring Iraq.