BEIRUT (AFP) — Lebanese customs agents have seized dozens of stolen Iraqi antiquities including statues, pottery and stone carvings, from two smugglers along the Syrian-Lebanese border, officials said on Tuesday.
"Following a probe, agents at the Masnaa crossing post seized 57 artefacts on Sunday including statues, pottery and engraved stone pieces packed in a car," a statement from Lebanese customs said.
Two men, a Syrian and an Iraqi, were arrested, a customs official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
After seizing the antiquities found in the car, customs officers raided a house and found more stolen antiques, the official added.
Around 32,000 artefacts were looted from 12,000 archaeological sites in Iraq during the chaos that followed the US-led invasion in 2003, and 15,000 items were also stolen from the Baghdad National Museum.
According to Iraqi officials only 4,000 artefacts have been recovered, despite the introduction of a reward system offering up to 3,000 dollars to those handing in stolen items.
In April, Syria returned around 700 stolen antiquities to Iraq.
Iraq is described as the cradle of civilisation, with some of the first evidence of complex urban life appearing within its borders around 3000 BC.
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