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Private collectors fuel demand for looted Mideast antiquities

Archaeological experts say social dislocation and terrorism are increasing the ability of organized gangs to traffic artifacts to clients in Europe, Asia and the United States.
Smoke rises from the modern city as seen from the historic city of Palmyra, in Homs Governorate, Syria in this April 1, 2016 file photo. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki/Files    - RTSD8PD
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While world attention focuses on the recent liberation of Palmyra and devastation the Islamic State caused to that ancient site in Syria during a lengthy occupation, looting and trafficking of antiquities is on the rise throughout the Middle East.

Social dislocation and economic crises in the wake of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings have increased the incentive for ordinary people to pilfer precious artifacts in Egypt, Yemen and Libya. At the same time, groups such as IS and al-Qaeda are profiting from trafficking these items through organized networks primarily to private collectors in Europe, Asia and the United States.

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