Baghdad museum artefacts returned

24 April 2003
Good news emerged on Baghdad's missing antiquities on 23 April, as US officials on the ground reported Iraqis returning looted treasures. Washington faced strong criticism from around the world for its failure to protect Baghdad's National Museum of Antiquities from looters, containing artefacts dating from the beginning of the ancient Sumer civilisation around 3,500 BC to the end of the Abbasid Caliphate in 1258 AD. However, some Iraqis are now handing back treasures. 'I've heard from friends that a number of objects were collected in mosques in the neighbourhood after appeals from the imams of mosques,' said an official serving as adviser to Iraq's culture ministry, quoted in the Washington Post. Museum staff said that other items were removed for safekeeping before the war began.

However, many items are expected to be smuggled out of Iraq for sale on the international market. Experts deduce from the pattern of items that were taken from the Baghdad museum that the thieves were well-schooled in their potential value. The US FBI announced on 21 April that looted artefacts had begun to surface, with one item from the Baghdad museum seized at an American airport. On 23 April, an engineer with the US' Fox television network was charged with the theft of 12 paintings from a palace belonging to Saddam Hussein's son Uday. A number of other journalists and a soldier are also being investigated. 'These items are not souvenirs or war trophies but stolen goods that belong to the people of Iraq,' deputy secretary of homeland security, Gordon England, told a press conference.

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