Afghan gold: How the country's heritage was saved

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A miraculous tale of human ingenuity and bravery lies behind an exhibition of treasures from Afghanistan that opens at the British Museum this week.

In 17 years of war after the 1989 Soviet withdrawal, and five years of Taliban rule, most of the Afghan national museum's riches were looted and some were deliberately destroyed.

But the most valuable items survived, in a vault deep beneath the presidential palace, thanks to five men - among them museum director Omar Khan Massoudi.

The Kabul national museum is located a few kilometres south of the capital, in an area that repeatedly changed hands as mujahideen militias vied for influence in the early 1990s.

Each time it was taken, the museum was looted again. Of the estimated 100,000 object on display in 1979, some 70% had gone by the mid-1990s.

A rocket destroyed a 4th Century wall painting in 1993. Priceless goods, some looted to order, changed hands on the international art market. Others were buried in rubble or burned as firewood....

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