Hundreds of Afghan artifacts return to Kabul from Swiss safekeeping

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KABUL, Afghanistan -- More than 1,400 artifacts -- protected from looters and the Taliban since 1999 at a museum-in-exile in Switzerland -- were returned to the National Museum of Afghanistan on Saturday.

The collection, which includes a piece from a foundation stone that was "touched by Alexander the Great" and several items thousands of years old, was assembled in Switzerland by Afghans who wanted to save their cultural heritage after decades of war.

The oldest artifact dates back 3,500 years, and the collection spans "countless" empires to which Afghanistan once belonged, said Paul Bucherer, director of the Afghanistan Museum in the northwestern Swiss town of Bubendorf. The Swiss museum, which received about 50,000 visitors since opening in 2000, is now closed.

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