ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraq's federal police announced on Friday its arrest of two individuals in Baghdad purportedly attempting to sell ancient Egyptian "artifacts" with the authorities claiming the value of the items was up to five million dollars.
Police officials did not clarify which experts established the authenticity of the items, which resemble tourist souvenirs commonly sold throughout Egypt.
The country's police on occasion confiscate stolen historical artifacts, with the regularity of such cases increasing after the Islamic State (IS) invasion of large swathes of Iraq and Syria. The group would often overrun museums and archeological sites to either destroy or sell valuable items found, to the dismay of historical experts and enthusiasts. Instances of artifacts from abroad being smuggled into Iraq, instead of plundered from within the country's borders, are far rarer.
"The police were able to arrest two people who were trying to sell pharaonic artifacts in the al-Saydiya neighborhood of west Baghdad," federal police chief Major-General Shaker Jawdat said in a statement.
He added that "the arrest of the two persons came during an [undercover operation] while they were bargaining with the buyer to complete the sale."
The police also released pictures of the captured individuals and confiscated the items being sold without giving further details on the artifacts.
The three items seen in the pictures are all golden and dark blue-colored and have similar styling. The alleged artifacts are miniature versions of the iconic statue of the Sphinx, the pharaonic coffins, and the Mask of Tutankhamun.
Among the objects were also pottery and a piece of rock.
"The value of these effects is estimated at 5 million dollars," Jawdat said, adding that "the suspects were handed over to the competent authorities to complete the legal proceedings against them."
Editing by John J. Catherine