Terrorists have stolen more than 4,500 artifacts from a museum in the Syrian city of Raqqa, head of the Syrian Directorate-General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM) Muhammad Nazeer Awad told Sputnik on Monday.
Awad pointed out that the DGAM had lists of all pieces currently being shown in Syria’s museums.
“For example, more than 4,500 showpieces have been stolen from the museum in Raqqa,” Awad said.
He pointed out that the directorate had no clear information about the situation in the museum in Idlib as the city was not controlled by government forces.
“That is why it [the museum] is regarded as looted,” Awad said.
He called the situations with the museums of Raqqa and Idlib catastrophic, adding that some artifacts had also been stolen from museums in the cities of Homs, Palmyra, Daraa and Bosra.
According to Awad, the lists of pieces stolen from museums in Bosra and Daraa had not been completed yet because both settlements had only recently been liberated from terrorists.
The official added that terrorists had also stolen 250-270 “small” artifacts from the ancient city of Palmyra.
Awad noted that it was impossible to assess the scale of the cultural heritage, which was stolen in Syria. The official said that the DGAM had created a special department for returning antiquities.
“The experts, who are heading it [the department], are monitoring the Syrian antiquities that emerge in various parts of the world,” he added.
DGAM deputy head Hammam Saad told Sputnik that about 9,000 antiquities, prepared by terrorists for illegal trafficking, had been seized by the Syrian army and returned to the DGAM.
“During the liberation of the cities of Palmyra, Daraa, Homs the army found antiquities that have already been prepared for trafficking from Syria. The army returned the antiquities and submitted them to the directorate. Approximately 9,000 pieces,” Saad said.
He pointed out that the DGAM would request the help of foreign experts in order to identify the returned antiquities. Saad added that the DGAM especially hoped for the help of Russian and Italian experts.
Illegal antiquities trade was one of the biggest sources of revenue for the Daesh* terror group when it was active across Syria. Syrian government troops, supported by the Russian Aerospace Forces, have managed to recapture most of the country’s territories from Daesh as well as other militant groups. Idlib remains the last big stronghold of illegal opposition armed units.