Afghanistan seeks return of ‘stolen treasures’

Aftenposten, Oslo, June 19, 2008

Some cultural treasures allegedly carried out of Afghanistan by a Norwegian soldier are 4,000 years old, and the country wants them back.

Norwegian soldiers have been part of the UN force in Afghanistan.

PHOTO: RUNE THOMAS EGE / FORSVARET

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News magazine Ny Tid reports in its current edition that Afghan authorities are seeking return of ancient coins and a bottle that a soldier recently offered to an Oslo museum.

“They are from the bronze age, and very valuable for Afghanistan,” the director of the National Museum in Kabul, Omara Khan Masoudi, told Ny Tid. The museum itself was ransacked and fell into ruin during the war in Afghanistan in the early 1990s.

Masoudi said he was “shocked” to hear that a Norwegian soldier “who came here to serve the country and our people, had smuggled out historical treasures that belong to the Afghan people.”

Masoudi said he plans to write to the Norwegian government through Afghanistan’s own foreign ministry, in the hopes of securing return of the items.

He noted that he’s not sure the soldier stole the items. “Maybe he found them by mistake, but we will take this up with the Norwegian government, so they can help us find the items and get them returned,” Masoudi told Ny Tid. “The soldier must be encouraged to give them back.”

Afghanistan’s embassy in Oslo has also told Ny Tid that they had contacted the Norwegian Defense Ministry, in an effort to find out what happened.

Masoudi praised the Norwegian government for returning 65 manuscripts that also were smuggled out of Afghanistan last year.

“Norway is one of the countries that has given us a lot of support to rebuild our museums, they have helped us rebuild the country,” Masoudi said. “I’m certain they will do all they can to find and return these stolen treasures.”

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