UK returns stolen artefacts to Afghanistan
Thursday 19 July 2012
The British armed forces have returned historical artefacts dating back as far as the Bronze Age to Afghan museums, after they were stolen and smuggled abroad, it was announced today.
The precious cargo, weighing more than two tonnes and containing 843 individual objects, left RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire last week on board a C17 transport plane, and was then transferred from the UK military base Camp Bastion in Helmand to Kabul by Hercules aircraft.
Prime Minister David Cameron and President Hamid Karzai confirmed its safe arrival at a press conference in the Afghan capital this morning.
Some of the items were looted from Afghanistan's museums during civil wars in the country over the past two decades, while others came from illegal excavations of archaeological sites. They are thought to have been spirited out of Afghanistan for sale on the international black market.
The consignment included objects found in three separate seizures by customs officials as they were being smuggled into the UK, while other items came to light thanks to investigations by the Art and Antiques Unit of the Metropolitan Police. Additional objects were saved by private individuals.
Experts at the British Museum identified them as originating in Afghanistan and they were stored at the museum in London for safekeeping and recording until their return to Kabul. Some featured in the British Museum's Afghanistan exhibition last year.
Among the most prized items are first-century AD furniture decorations known as the Begram Ivories and an important sculpture of Buddha from the second or third century AD, both stolen from Afghan museums during the 1992-94 civil war following the withdrawal of Soviet troops.
The oldest artefacts date back more than 4,000 years to the late third millennium BC and include Bronze Age cosmetic flasks, stamp seals and statuettes. There are also bowls, coins, metal and pottery vessels from the Islamic medieval period.
British Museum director Neil MacGregor said: "I am delighted that these important artefacts have been safely returned to the National Museum in Kabul.
"This is the outcome of the ongoing dialogue between our cultural institutions as well as the support of the authorities to identify and preserve items from the national collection of Afghanistan that had been illegally removed during years of conflict."
A memorandum of understanding between the British Museum and the National Museum of Afghanistan was signed in 2011 to ensure that efforts will continue to identify and return further artefacts to Kabul.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said this week's operation was the first time the military has assisted in the transportation of historic artefacts to Afghanistan - a task previously undertaken in 2009 by the International Red Cross.
"The transfer of these items is a vote of confidence and a step forward in Afghanistan's journey towards normalisation," said Mr Hammond.
"It is fitting that the British armed forces should play a role in their return, alongside the British Museum and others.
"For UK forces to be a part of the process is a symbol of how Britain stands squarely behind Afghanistan in its efforts to become a country capable of standing on its own two feet."
- 1 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 2 The confessions of men who ordered mail-order brides
- 3 UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
- 5 'Isis' schoolgirls: Missing British teenager tweets picture of her Syrian takeaway
Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
Power of Nepal earthquake was equivalent to 20 huge atomic bombs
Nepal earthquake video: Terrifying footage shows moment avalanche hit Everest Base Camp
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...
£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...
£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...
£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...