Iraqi forces foil $13M plot to smuggle ancient artifacts from Kirkuk to Turkey
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Iraqi security forces on Saturday announced they had arrested two people who were trying to smuggle at least USD 13 million worth of ancient artifacts from Kirkuk Province to Turkey.
According to an official statement by the Iraqi Interior Ministry, security forces foiled the smuggling plot through “accurate intelligence” and confiscated eight million dollars’ worth of ancient manuscripts and an estimated five million dollars’ worth of artifacts.
The statement did not mention which era the antiquities belonged.
The Interior Ministry’s Inspector General said the two suspects had confessed to striking a deal with a person in Turkey where the artifacts would be handed over at the border.
The statement revealed that the two men were waiting “to deliver the shipment of artifacts, containing gold and diamond jewelry” which belonged to Sajida Khairallah Talfah, the wife of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
Following the fall of the former Iraqi regime in 2003, museums around the country were looted and burned as thousands of ancient artifacts and antiquities were smuggled out of the country.
Additionally, when the Islamic State (IS) emerged in 2014, the militant group destroyed several ancient monuments and statues and smuggled and sold them abroad, especially from the Mosul Museum.
Last June, the Iraqi Interior Ministry announced the seizure of artifacts belonging to the Mosul Museum found inside the house of IS militants on the eastern side of the city.
The relics included priceless ancient Assyrian, Akkadian, Babylonian, Persian, and Roman artifacts.