Official: US, France looting artifacts in northern Syria

A senior Syrian official says the US and France are carrying out illegal excavations in ancient sites in northern Syria with the help of Kurdish militants. 

Much of the digging work is conducted on the Um al-Sarj mountain near Manbij, head of Syria’s Directorate-General for Museums and Antiquities Mahmoud Hammoud told SANA news agency Sunday.

Manbij is controlled by Kurdish militants who are heavily armed and supported by US and French troops illegally deployed to northern Syria.

According to SANA, the Um al-Sarj mountain in the northern countryside of Aleppo is rich in artifacts. US troops and their allies, it said, are carrying out similar excavations in the ancient souk of Manbij.

“The excavations, looting and robbery are also taking place in the archaeological tombs in the eastern side of Manbij,” he said.

Hammoud said the diggings are a criminal act and a violation of the Syrian sovereignty. His department, he said, is contacting international organizations to condemn the looting of Syria’s cultural heritage.

“We hope that the Syrian army would return peace and security to all those areas soon because it’s the only force capable of protecting our heritage,” the official said.

The Syrian government closed museums and safely relocated more than 300,000 artifacts as the conflict began in 2011, but many sites were destroyed by Daesh and other terrorist groups, damaged by the fighting or looted.

In October, Syria reopened its National Museum in the heart of the capital Damascus after more than six years, in a move hailed as a return to normal life amid victories against foreign-backed militants.

Hammoud said then 9,000 artifacts had been restored and reclaimed out of hundreds of thousands of significant articles and sculptures that were smuggled abroad.

The ancient city of Palmyra, home to one of the Middle East’s most spectacular archaeological sites, was badly damaged by Daesh terrorists who occupied it for months.

Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad on Sunday called on the world nations to condemn “awful crimes” of the US and its allies in Syria.

His remarks came after at least 13 civilians lost their lives last week in US airstrikes on Syria’s troubled eastern province of Dayr al-Zawr.

The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that as many as 206 civilians had been killed in US air raids last month.

US-led coalition strikes kill 206 in Syria’s Dayr al-Zawr

At least 206 civilians were killed in November this year by US-led airstrikes on Syria’s eastern province of Dayr al-Zawr.

The US has been conducting airstrikes against what it calls Daesh targets inside Syria since September 2014 without any authorization from the Damascus government or a UN mandate.

Turkey: US backs ‘terror groups’ 

Turkey’s Parliament Speaker Binali Yildirim on Sunday hit out at the US for cooperating with Kurdish militants in the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Democratic Union Party (PYD).

Ankara regards the two groups as allies of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which has been waging a bloody campaign inside Turkey since the 1980s.

“Unfortunately a country that we see as our ally took steps to eliminate Daesh by collaborating with the PKK’s Syrian branch, the PYD/YPG. This is a very wrong method,” Yildirim told a gathering of parliament speakers in Tehran.

“Let’s say you eliminated Daesh. Then what terror group would you work with to eliminate the PYD/YPG? It’s a dead end,” he said, addressing the United States.

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