Iraq Museum Reclaims 700 Stolen Artifacts

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Syria has said it arrested some of the antiquities traffickers but did not provide more details.

The items recovered by Syria were packed in 17 boxes and flown back to Baghdad on Saturday, according to Dr. Muna Hassan, the head of a committee working to restore the artifacts.

The head of the Syrian Antiquities Department, Bassam Jamous, said some of the objects were from the Bronze Age and early Islamic era.

Hassan declined to put an exact value on the trove, saying only that the items were collectively worth millions of dollars.

Museum Remains Closed

Hassan said negotiations were underway with several other countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Germany, and Italy for the return of more looted antiquities.

For Iraqis, the museum is an important reminder of their cultural heritage. However, the facility remains closed to the public due to violence, lack of security, and the poor condition of the building.

(See related photo gallery: "Iraq Museum Still Too Damaged to Reopen" [March 19, 2008].)

The U.S. military was intensely criticized for not protecting the National Museum's treasure of ancient relics and art in the weeks after Baghdad's capture, when looters roamed the city looking for anything of value.

Thieves smashed or pried open row upon row of glass cases and pilfered, or just destroyed, their contents.

The sale of stolen antiquities has allegedly helped finance Iraqi extremist groups, according to Marine Reserve Col. Matthew Bogdanos, the U.S. investigator who led the initial probe into the looting.

Associated Press Writer Sameer N. Yacoub contributed to this report.

Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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