Experts in Kuwait investigate ‘Pharaoh-era’ antique smuggled in a sofa

Sources confirm the sofa was shipped from the airport by a certified and registered company. (@customsgovtkw)
Updated 13 March 2018
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Experts in Kuwait investigate ‘Pharaoh-era’ antique smuggled in a sofa

CAIRO: Archaeology experts in Kuwait are “almost certain” that a stone coffin lid found smuggled inside a sofa dates back to the time of the Pharaohs.
The artifact was discovered earlier this month at the Kuwait Airways cargo terminal as officers scanned a shipment of office furniture that had come from Egypt.
The 170cm-long piece, which looks like a statue, is carved from stone and depicts a figure with an elaborate headdress. It had been expertly concealed within a sofa.
A team of four specialists from Kuwait and four from Egypt will examine the item, including experts from Cairo University and Assiut University.
A high-level source at the National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters of Kuwait (NCCAL) said that experts were almost certain the antique dates to the Pharaonic era.
NCCAL sources said that the antique would be sent back to Egypt if Egyptian experts agree with their findings. This is part of a movement by Kuwait to prevent the illegal smuggling of antiquities from foreign countries.
A Kuwaiti official announced in a short video that the authorities had found the Egyptian coffin and that they would communicate with Egyptian officials soon.
A source at the Egyptian airport confirmed the sofa was shipped from the airport by a certified and registered company. Airport authorities are investigating how the item made it through customs.
Shaaban Abdel Gawad, head of the Department of Recovered Antiquities, told Arab News: “We have not yet sent anyone from Egypt to examine the smuggled artifact. However, a committee of Egyptian archaeologists who live in Kuwait examined the artifact on Thursday.”
He added: “The primary reports of the committee state that the artifact needs to first be professionally cleaned as they are unable to identify its features.”
Abdel Gawad said both the Ministry of Antiquities and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were working together to discuss with their Kuwaiti counterparts the logistics of sending the artifact back to Egypt.
“We do not know when Egypt will receive this piece. However, once we receive it, it will be examined in Egypt and a detailed report will be issued.”
The department said that the piece was likely to be examined inside the laboratories of Al-Tahrir Museum in Cairo. The study would require the use of carbon-14, a radioactive isotope used to trace the age of an artifact, to examine the coffin and its colors.


Russia says drone attacks on its Syria base have increased

Updated 18 August 2018
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Russia says drone attacks on its Syria base have increased

  • Idlib has become the main base for President Bashar Assad’s foes, who moved there after being forced out from other areas across Syria
  • A recent UN report warned that Daesh, which once boasted of commanding a caliphate stretching across northern Syria and Iraq

DAMASCUS: Russian air defense assets in Syria have downed 45 drones targeting their main base in the country, its military said, after an attack by Daesh on a Syrian army base a day earlier killed seven troops.

The Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, said that five of them were shot down in the last three days near the Hemeimeem air base. The base in the province of Latakia serves as the main hub for Russian operations in Syria.

Konashenkov said that while the drones appear primitive, they use sophisticated technologies and have a range of up to 100 km. 

He charged that the militants would not have been able to assemble the drones without outside help, but didn’t specify who might have assisted them.

The Russian general noted that the number of drone attacks have increased recently, adding that all of them were launched by militants based in the northern province of Idlib.

Idlib has become the main base for President Bashar Assad’s foes, who moved there after being forced out from other areas across Syria as part of surrender deals often negotiated with the Russians on behalf of the Syrian regime. With Russia’s support, Assad’s forces have regained control over key cities, like Aleppo, Homs and Daraa, the southern city where the uprising against the government began in March 2011. 

The authorities also have restored control over key highways, allowing safe travel all the way form the Jordanian border in the south to the central province of Hama.

In Homs, regional Gov. Talal Barazi told international reporters during a trip organized by the Russian Defense Ministry that a key bridge on a highway linking the Homs and Hama provinces that was destroyed in 2012 has been restored.

Barazi said that later this year his administration plans to start restoring the old part of Homs that was ravaged by fierce fighting in 2014.

He said that about 650 fighters who had left the province and moved to Idlib had come back to Homs and agreed to lay down their arms.

Barazi said that the historic city of Palmyra, home to one of the Middle East’s most spectacular archaeological sites, could be open for tourist visits by next summer. 

Many of the city’s archaeological treasures were badly damaged by Daesh in 2015. Palmyra is a world heritage site protected by the UN’s cultural agency.

In Aleppo, Hazem Ajan, the director of the city’s industrial cluster, said that about 500 companies have resumed operations in the area since the government reclaimed control in 2016.

Meanwhile, in eastern Syria, at least seven soldiers were killed with Daesh attacked an army position near the city of Deir Ezzor, a monitoring group said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the attack on Wednesday near the Taim oil field was the militants’ closest approach to the Deir Ezzor air base since the government recaptured it from the group last year.

Mohammed Hassan, a media coordinator for the activist-run Deir Ezzor 24, said at least 12 soldiers and five IS militants were killed in the clashes.

A recent UN report warned that Daesh, which once boasted of commanding a caliphate stretching across northern Syria and Iraq, is adopting a guerrilla profile.

The group may still have up to 30,000 members distributed between Syria and Iraq, according to the UN report.

Also on Thursday, Assad and his wife Asma visited one of the tunnels once used by fighters outside Damascus to move vehicles, weapons, and fighters while they were under siege, the president’s office said. Regime forces have uncovered a network of tunnels underneath the Eastern Ghouta suburbs of the capital since they seized the area from opposition forces in a fierce campaign earlier this year.

The tunnel visited by the Assads was decorated with reliefs sculpted by a team of artists supervised by the government showing soldiers fighting and triumphing over their opponents.