Looters still ransacking Afghanistan antiquities

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More than five years after the fall of the Taliban regime, the plundering of Afghanistan's archaeological sites and museums not only continues but has evolved into a sophisticated trade that could be financing the country's warlords and insurgents, experts say.

The International Council of Museums, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of the world's natural and cultural heritage, on Friday published a "red list" of Afghan antiquities at risk, urging collectors, dealers and museums to be vigilant when they come across objects that might have been stolen.

The list includes pottery and statuettes from the 3rd millennium B.C., golden reliquaries from the 1st century and Islamic panels from the 13th century...

Much has been made of an exhibit at Paris' Guimet Museum, where 22,000 pieces of jewel-encrusted crowns, golden daggers and baubles from an ancient burial mound are back on display after being hidden for years by Afghans at great personal risk.

Still missing, however, are more than 55,000 art objects that were stolen from all over the country since the 1980s, said Zemaryalai Tarzi, a prominent Afghan archaeologist.

"Never has a country been looted so systematically as Afghanistan," he said. "It was before the Taliban, it was during the Taliban, it was after. And it continues," he said.

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