Iraqi treasures found safe

Almost all of the priceless items feared stolen from the Baghdad Museum have been found safe in a secret vault, the occupying US-led forces in Iraq said on Saturday.

    Artefacts: Most of them
    were safely hidden

    A special team of US investigators working at the museum to check the extent of  looting has concluded that around 3,000 items were still lost or stolen, compared with initial estimates of up to 170,000.


    Most of the missing items were used for research, rather than exhibition. "Earlier this week, 179 boxes that contained the vast majority of the museum's exhibition collection were discovered safe in a secret vault," the occupying forces stated.


    The discovery of these boxes containing nearly 8,000 of the most important items from the museum's collection means that the work of the investigation team is drawing to a close.


    Some of the priceless items were taken home by staff for safekeeping, and others were found hidden elsewhere, including the large haul in a secret vault. Staff initially refused to reveal the location of the vault until US troops had left Iraq, but later relented.


    Treasure of Nimrud


    Another trove of priceless jewellery, the Treasure of Nimrud, was found in a flooded Central Bank vault on Thursday.


    The Nimrud antiquities, hundreds of gold and gem-studded pieces from the ancient kingdom of Assyria, were retrieved by US investigators after the vaults below the gutted shell of the looted bank building were drained.


    US customs agents who helped with the recovery of the treasure said when they first entered the vaults they found bodies of looters killed in shootouts with rival gangs. But the seals on the crates of treasure were intact.


    The occupying forces said the Nimrud treasure seemed to be in good condition. A team of experts from the British Museum would arrive soon to assess conservation needs.


    The customs agents said it was not known how the vaults came to be flooded. They suspect Iraqis deliberately let water in to stop looters making off with the money and valuables inside.


    Despite the recovery of many of the museum's treasures, 47 items from the main exhibition, the museum's most treasured pieces, have not yet been found.


    The failure of US forces to prevent Baghdad Museum being plundered sparked a storm of protest around the world in April. The US military said its men were initially too busy fighting in the streets around the museum to halt the looting.


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