Ancient statues looted in Lebanese war returned decades later

The marble bull’s head made 2,400 years ago for a Phoenician temple was stolen in Byblos in 1981 at the height of Lebanon’s 1975-90 civil war.
Updated 13 January 2018
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Ancient statues looted in Lebanese war returned decades later

BEIRUT: A marble bull’s head made 2,400 years ago for a Phoenician temple and looted during Lebanon’s civil war arrived in Beirut on Friday after American officials found it in the US and sent it home.
The object — along with two partial statues that the US is also returning — will be displayed in the National Museum in Beirut early next month, Lebanon’s Culture Ministry said in a statement.
They were stolen from a storehouse in Byblos in 1981 at the height of Lebanon’s 1975-90 civil war, as Christian and Muslim militias battled each other across much of the country.
In recent years, wars in Iraq and Lebanon’s neighbor Syria have laid waste their cultural heritage and created a huge market in looted antiquities, helping to fund Daesh militants.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s office in New York said last month it was returning the three statues to Lebanon and was forming an antiquities trafficking unit to stop the trade in looted artifacts.
The three pieces, all excavated during the 1960s and 1970s from the temple of Eshmoun in the port of Sidon and dating from between the fourth and sixth centuries BC, had been sold to private collectors in the US.
The bull’s head was identified by a curator while on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art as being among the antiquities stolen in Lebanon.
Located on the east coast of the Mediterranean, Lebanon was an important part of the classical world, home to the Phoenician civilization and part of the Persian and Roman empires. It has several major ancient sites.
During the civil war, curators at its National Museum, which was located on a deadly front line, protected treasures that were not looted by sealing them up in the basement or encasing them in cement.
Others were located in other sites around Lebanon, including to Byblos, an ancient port town north of Beirut, where the three items returned on Friday were stolen.


Assad regime ‘using Daesh to justify atrocities’

Updated 19 min 36 sec ago
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Assad regime ‘using Daesh to justify atrocities’

  • Syrian government claims Daesh fighters killed at least 25 regime troops in a surprise attack near the eastern Syrian town of Mayadeen
  • Opposition leader says the regime forces’ fight against Daesh as a sham and said the terror group was a gun for hire

JEDDAH: Bashar Assad’s forces are using the threat of Daesh to justify brutal acts against civilians, Syrian opposition spokesman Yahya Al-Aridi said.

His remarks on Thursday came as Daesh fighters killed at least 25 regime troops in a surprise attack near the eastern Syrian town of Mayadeen, surrendered by the terror group six months ago.

At least 13 insurgents were killed in the raid, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Daesh was continuing its advance on the town from the Badia desert, observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.

The attack was the largest since the terror group was expelled from the town in October 2017, he added.

However, the opposition spokesman described the regime forces’ fight against Daesh as a sham and said the terror group was a gun for hire.

“As for those so-called 25 regime soldiers, the regime is abducting people, training them on how to pull the trigger and sending them to die.

“They are being used to send a message that the regime is still fighting terrorism,” Al-Aridi told Arab News.

He claimed that Mayadeen “still holds people who could be classified as Daesh, and the regime exploits that any time it wants.”

Regime airstrikes and artillery fire also pounded Daesh-occupied areas in the south of Damascus on Thursday. Warplanes targeted “the dens of terrorists from Al-Nusra Front and Daesh in Hajjar Al-Aswad,” a southern district of the capital, pro-Assad media said.

Iraq’s air force also carried out “deadly” airstrikes on Daesh positions inside Syria, Prime Minister Haider Abadi’s office said.

Meanwhile, the US warned that the Assad regime could still carry out limited chemical attacks despite last week’s coalition strikes. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, director of the US military’s Joint Staff, said the regime retained a “residual” chemical capability at sites across the country.

Separately, the regime took control of Dumayr, a town northeast of Damascus, after rebels evacuated to north Syria.