ISIL Leader’s Loot

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tags: ISIS, ISIL, Ancient Artifacts



On May 15, 2015, U.S. Special Operations Forces recovered a cache of hundreds of archaeological and historical objects and fragments during a raid in al-Amr (eastern Syria) to capture ISIL leader Abu Sayyaf. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, Abu Sayyaf was involved in ISIL's military operations and helped direct the terrorist organization's illicit oil, gas, and financial operations. The cache represents significant primary evidence of looting at archaeological sites in Syria and Iraq, theft from regional museums, and the stockpiling of these spoils for likely sale on the international market. It also corroborates evidence of looting previously documented by the Department of State and the American Schools of Oriental Research. All objects and fragments were turned over to officials at the Iraq National Museum on July 15 by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

The cache is comprised of an assortment of archaeological artifacts and fragments, historical objects, modern/contemporary items, and replica or faked antiquities. More than half the items are coins made of gold, silver, and bronze. There are also items of pottery, glass, ivory, stone, and leather including jewelry, figurines, bowls, and manuscripts. While some items were clearly property of Mosul Museum, all are now in the hands of Iraqi experts, who are working to determine the likely provenance of each object.




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