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Dutch Police Hand over Looted Artifacts to Iraq

Courtesy of the Penninsula (Qatar News)
26 July 2006

Dutch police have handed to Iraq three archaeological pieces that had been stolen in post-war looting, Iraq's ambassador to the Netherlands said.

Siamand Banaa said the stolen pieces-three ancient clay tablets-were probably taken from a museum in Iraq. Known as cuneiforms, the tablets belong to one of the earliest known forms of written expression.

They were among many valuable pieces stolen from the country before and after the war in 2003. "Thousands of ancient artefacts were looted from Iraq after 2003 but also before the liberation," Banaa said.

He said police did not give details about how they had found the looted pieces, but said that three Iraqis were involved.

Three years after the US-led invasion of Iraq and a widely publicized break-in at the Baghdad Museum, experts say the country is a hotbed of antiquities plundering that threatens to leave huge gaps in the understanding of its rich history.

Once called Mesopotamia, Iraq is often regarded as the cradle of civilization and the birthplace of cities.

In spite of efforts by the United Nations and law enforcement agencies including the FBI and Interpol to curb ransacking and trafficking of artefacts, Iraqi pieces chronicling millennia of human history are finding their way to private collections across the world. Once unearthed, they are smuggled out of the country through Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey to Europe and the United States and flood the black market.

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