15,000 artefacts stolen from Iraq since 2003

15,000 artefacts stolen from Iraq since 2003
Thousands of ancient artefacts have been smuggled out of the country since the US-led invasion, Iraqi officials announced this week.
2 min read
07 January, 2016
The ancient city of Nimrud was bulldozed by IS earlier this year [Getty]
Iraqi has had thousands of artefacts looted since the US-led invasion, including statues and treasure from the Akkadian era (2161-2371BC), judicial sources announced this week.

"15,000 artefacts have been stolen since the occupation of the country in 2003," said Judge Suhail Nijm.

"There are ongoing efforts to retrieve some of these artefacts in Italy, including 88 Akkadian tablets which have been in the University of Rome's possession since 2006."

Suhail said that there was continuing correspondence with Italy in an attempt to retrieve the pieces.

Al-Araby al-Jadeed previously reported that gang activity in the country had lead to an unprecedented theft of antiquities in the Central and Western regions of Iraq.
The American army... systematically stole invaluable antiquities

These thefts increased further during the past year, when Sumerian and Akkadian treasures were looted from more than 765 archaeological sites in the south of the country.

Experts estimate that there are tens of thousands sites that remain undiscovered in Iraq and cover the Sumerian, Babylonian and Assyrian civilizations.

During the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, US forces were widely accused of failing to protect the cultural antiquities of Iraq.

"The American army used archaeological sites as bases and systematically stole invaluable antiquities," said Muzahim al-Obaidi, an Iraqi archaeological expert.

"It also opened the door for smuggling gangs, resulting in the theft of thousands of rare pieces."

After an ancient Iraqi Torah emerged in Tel Aviv last year, many accused the Iraqi government under Nouri al-Maliki of selling the priceless artefact to Israel, after originally claiming that it had gone to the US for restoration.

More recently, Iraq's ancient sites have come under attack from the Islamic State group.

In March militants "bulldozed" the renowned archaeological site of the ancient city of Nimrud in northern Iraq.

The group also issued videos depicting their members attacking Mosul museum with sledgehammers, sparking global outrage.

In October, the FBI alerted art collectors and dealers to be "particularly careful" when trading in Near Eastern antiquities, warning that artefacts plundered by militants were entering the marketplace.

Last year, Iraq's national museum in Baghdad opened its doors to the public after 12 years of closure in a move Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said was to defy efforts "to destroy the heritage of mankind and Iraq's civilisation".