08/24/2013, 00.00
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Egypt's archaeological heritage suffers from clashes with Muslim Brotherhood

A raid deprives the Egyptian Museum in Minya of major items. Over a thousand artefacts are stolen, including statutes, coins and jewellery. The government blames the Muslim Brotherhood, tries to reassert greater control over heritage sites.

Cairo (AsiaNews/Agencies) - As Egypt was caught up in violent clashes between the army and the Muslim Brotherhood, the country's archaeological heritage has come under attack.

On 15 August, looters made away with prized artefacts stolen from the Malawi Museum in the southern Nile River city of Minya, which houses one of the main of collection of ancient Egyptian art in the country.

The Egypt Heritage Task Force, a group of Egyptian archaeologists who use social media to try to raise awareness about looting and illegal digging for artefacts, said that 1,050 pieces were stolen from the museum, including antique statues, ornaments and jewellery.

The Daily Mail recently published photos showing opened sarcophagi, smashed display cases and other acts of vandalism against items too heavy to be taken out of the museum.

Minister of State of Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim blamed the Muslim Brotherhood.

He said that looters stormed the museum on the evening of 15 August, announcing th deployment of armoured vehicles in Luxor, Karnak, Nuba, Aswan and other places of artistic importance to the country.

As the violence escalated in Cairo and more police units were deployed in the capital, smaller cities and towns were left unprotected.

Local sources report that Minya was left without protection, allowing looters to act almost undisturbed.

Even in the days following the looting, neither police nor the army men were deployed to protect the museum.

A week ago, under the threat of sniper fire, archaeologist Monica Hanna and others were able to save ancient Egyptian sarcophagi, two mummies and several dozen other items left behind by the thieves.

However, the museum lost several statues, including one Pharaoh Akhenaten's children, a unique masterpiece according to Hanna.

By contrast, the pyramids and the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, which suffered similar damage in 2011, were protected by armoured vehicles during the outbreak of violence.

The head of museums for the Antiquities Ministry, Ahmed Sharaf, said two statues were returned on Monday, adding that police and ministry officials would not press charges or arrest anyone who comes forward with looted items.

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