At least 10 people reported killed by fires engulfing wheat fields in northwest Syria
At least 10 people have been killed by fires engulfing vital wheat fields across Syria's northeast, according to a UK-based activist group, as Kurdish authorities claimed the fields had been set on fire deliberately.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that the victims included civilians and members of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.
The fires in the Kurdish-majority province of Hasakeh also wounded another five people, according to a spokesman for the Kurdish Red Crescent.
"The victims were trying to douse the blaze but they were trapped by the fire," Kamal Derbas said.
Kurdish officials have called on the US-led coalition to help extinguish blazes in the cereal and oil-rich region under their control.
"The largest fires have ravaged up to 350,000 hectares of land," Salman Baroudo, the head of the Kurdish agriculture authority, told the AFP news agency.
Baroudo claimed the fires were "deliberate", saying they serve to "stir up strife between area residents and undermine the Kurdish administration" in the country's northeast.
He did not specify who he believed was behind the blazes.
Kurdish-led forces blamed
The official state news agency SANA on Saturday blamed the field fires in Hasakeh on Kurdish-led forces.
It said they deliberately sparked a blaze to prevent local farmers from selling their crops to the government.
Analysts say wheat will be key to ensuring affordable bread prices and keeping the peace in various parts of the country in the coming period.
Farmers have separately blamed the fires on revenge attacks, sparks from low-quality fuel, and even carelessness.
SANA said on Saturday that other field fires in the northwestern countryside of Hama province were sparked by militant artillery attacks.
Clashes in the area on Saturday between government forces and militants left dozens of combatants dead, including 26 pro-regime fighters, the Observatory said.
More than 370,000 people have been killed in Syria's war since it erupted in 2011 with a violent crackdown on anti-government protests.