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Asia

Afghan museum regains stolen artefacts

The British government has returned about 800 artefacts to the Afghan National Museum, which were stolen or smuggled out of Afghanistan over the past few decades.

The archaeological treasures were stolen from the National Museum of Afghanistan during the Afghan civil war in early 1990s.

Most of the 843 artefacts were seized by the British authorities when they were smuggled into Britain. Others were identified on the black market and acquired by private donors on behalf of the British Museum.

"Among the returned artefacts, there is a stone Buddha statue thought to be more than 1, 500 years old," Sayed Makhdoom Raheen, the Afghan Culture Minister, told the media.

On Sunday, a ceremony was held in Kabul to mark the handover.

"This is not the first time that our British friends have helped us in the returning of artefacts looted during the civil war, to the National Museum," Raheen said, who believed the returned relics would help the museum regain its popularity.

The Afghan National Museum, which was largely destroyed during the Afghan civil war, has been rebuilt with international aid.

Raheen said the museum plans to put some artefacts on display soon.

Ahead of the handover ceremony, the British Museum said that the returned artefacts included "exquisite examples" of the Begram Ivories, a series of decorative inlays dating back to the first century AD. The Bactrian Bronze Age items, Greco-Bactrian and medieval Islamic coins are also among the items that were returned to Afghanistan on Sunday.

'Still unsafe'

Observers say the artefacts remain unsafe in Afghanistan, where war is stlll raging against Taliban militants.

In March 2001, the Taliban who were then in power in Afghanistan, provoked an outcry across the world when they destroyed two giant statues of Buddha in Bamiyan.

Afghanistan has a long Buddhist tradition, which it acquired from India before the arrival of Islam in the eighth century.

shs / gl (dpa, AFP)

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