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Iraq Retrieves Smuggled Mesopotamian Treasures
By Sinan Mahmoud
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The artefacts were displayed at the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Baghdad. ( The National)
Iraq has recovered 181 artefacts that had been smuggled out of the country, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry said on Monday.

The ancient artefacts were handed over to the Ministry of Culture, Tourism, and Antiquities by the Foreign Ministry at a ceremony in Baghdad.

Among them were a bronze statue of a man and eight metal boxes containing skeletons.

The skeletons are from the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud outside the present-day city of Mosul in northern Iraq, it said, adding that they had been taken to Los Angeles in the 1990s.

The Assyrians arose around 2,500BC in northern Iraq and at one point ruled over a realm stretching from the Mediterranean coast to Iran.

No details about the other artefacts were made public.

The pieces were retrieved from US, UK, Norway, Germany and Jordan, the ministry added.

The recovery of antiquities was announced after a trip by Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia' Al Sudani in April.

Modern Iraq is the site of the world's first civilisations. They span 7,000 years of Mesopotamian history, including the ancient Babylonians, Sumerians and Assyrians.

It has nearly 25,000 known archaeological sites, most badly affected by decades of war, lack of security and mismanagement.

After the 1991 Gulf War, when a US-led international coalition drove Saddam Hussein's army from Kuwait and the UN imposed economic sanctions, illegal archaeological digs became widespread, mainly in remote areas that troops were unable to secure.

With the fall of Baghdad during the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam's government, looters broke into the Iraqi National Museum, walking off with thousands of priceless artefacts and leaving the floor littered with shattered pottery. Only a few thousand have been retrieved.

Since then, looters continued digging in thousands of unprotected archaeological sites nationwide, leading to hundreds of pieces showing up on the international market.

With the help of the international community, Iraq has managed to retrieve thousands of pieces of its stolen heritage from different countries.

More important artefacts will return this month from Switzerland as well as a "rare archaeological collection" from Japan, Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein said on Monday in the statement without elaborating.

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