A tablet depicting an ancient Assyrian king — once owned by former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein — has been recovered by police and handed over to the ministry of antiquities, as anger over his allegedly looting of the country grows. The tablet, acquired by Saddam in 1977, shows Gilgamesh, a renowned king of ancient Assyria who is a major figure in ancient archaeology.
The tablet was never transferred to the museum and was believed to have been lost in an earlier raid. Yesterday, it was handed over in the western city of Ramadi by police to the department of antiquities and returned to the archaeology ministry in Baghdad. Officials said the tablet had been found at the hands of a criminal gang that was being tracked by a scientific lab, which is currently working on its treatment.
In response to the news, Mahmoud Khalaf, the minister of antiquities, called for an end to the “high crimes against Iraq’s historical assets” that he described as violating the “moral, political and legal customs” of Iraq. “Initiatives must be taken to stop the looting of the country’s heritage at any cost,” he said.
According to the Iraq Museum, the Central Bank and Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, more than a dozen other statues, coins and icons of the ancient world have been stolen from public and private sites around the country, including the giant Oryx statue in northern Iraq, the Tadmur cave and the mosque of Basra. Several have been recovered.
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