'Looted' treasures found in Baghdad

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The Independent Online

Almost all the items feared looted from the Iraqi National Museum in April have been found safe in a secret vault, the US announced yesterday.

In a separate find, the world-famous treasures of Nimrud, one of the most important archaeological discoveries of the 20th century, which have not been on public display since before the first Gulf War, have also been located. They were found in good condition in a different vault, at Iraq's central bank.

US occupation authorities said fewer than 50 major exhibition items from the National Museum's main collection have yet to be found. In all, 3,000 pieces were still missing but these included such unimportant items as shards of pottery.

"Earlier this week, 179 boxes that contained the vast majority of the museum's exhibition collection were discovered safe in a secret vault," the US-led administration said in a statement.

American soldiers were accused of not doing enough to stop the looting of the museum when they entered the capital in April. Since then, there has been confusion about how many of the 170,000 pieces from the museum were looted.

It emerged yesterday some pieces were actually taken home by staff for safekeeping, and others were found hidden elsewhere, including the large haul in a secret vault.

The Nimrud treasures are a separate find and include hundreds of gold and gem-studded pieces from the ancient kingdom of Assyria.

Nimrud, destroyed in 612BC, was the second capital of Assyria.