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Turkey arrests dozens in countrywide artifacts smuggling raid

Smuggling of historical artifacts is an issue in the Middle East, and European states have returned objects to Egypt and Iraq recently.
A Turkish police officer points to historical artifacts after police confiscated thousands of historical artifacts in a giant operation against smugglers in Istanbul.

Turkish authorities arrested dozens of people on Tuesday for alleged artifact smuggling.

At least 78 were arrested among 93 suspects across 30 provinces in Turkey. Security forces seized 9,276 illegally excavated artifacts in addition to detectors, firearms and cash in both US dollars and euros. Other artifacts were sold to American and European auction houses, sometimes using fake ownership documents, the official Anadolu Agency reported.

The smuggling of artifacts is a major problem in the Middle East, where some of the oldest civilizations in the world exist. This month, Egypt recovered an ancient statue of a priest from the Netherlands. In June, Egypt received more than 100 artifacts from France that had been smuggled out of the country. Last October, the United Kingdom agreed to return 5,000 artifacts to Iraq.

Turkish authorities have seized more than 13,000 historical artifacts in raids in Turkey, Bulgaria, Croatia and Serbia in the past two years, according to Anadolu.

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