KABUL (Pajhwok): The United States has returned Afghanistan 33 stolen antiques, including an ancient bronze mask of Silenus, reports The News York Times.
The Afghan ambassador to the US received the objects from the Manhattan district attorney’s office and the Department of Homeland Security on Monday.
Afghanistan has been deprived of tens of thousands of Buddhist and Hindu antiquities, some dating back more than 1,800 years, due to decades of war and anarchy.
The newspaper quoted the British Museum curator St John Simpson as saying most of those items found their way to the Western market in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Valued at $1.8 million, 33 of the antiquities were handed over to Ambassador Roya Rahmani at a ceremony in New York, the report said.
The artifacts were among 2,500 objects worth $143 million seized between 2012 and 2014 from Manhattan art dealer Subhash Kapoor, who is currently jailed in India on smuggling and theft charges.
Happy at the return of the objects, the Afghan ambassador said: “The environment that allows for the plundering of Afghanistan’s treasured antiquities is the same environment that allows for the perpetuation of conflict.”
She regretted smugglers were not just robbing Afghanistan of its history. “They are perpetuating a situation where peace does not manifest and the region does not stabilise.”
Afghan officials, confident they could now safeguard their museums and cultural institutions against plunder and smuggling, say the repatriated antiques would be placed in the National Museum in Kabul.
The ambassador commended the office of the district attorney for arranging the return of the objects to Afghanistan.