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Egypt retrieves 5,000 artefacts from US

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Egypt announced on Wednesday that it had retrieved some 5,000 ancient items from the United States, after years of negotiations to return what it said were fraudulently acquired items.

In a statement, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities confirmed the “arrival at Cairo airport of a large number of ancient Egyptian items which had been in the possession of the Museum of the Bible in Washington”.

The items, totalling nearly 5,000, mainly consisted of manuscripts but also included funeral masks, parts of coffins and the heads of stone statues, said Chaabane Abdeljawad, an official quoted in the statement.

The items, which left Egypt in a fraudulent manner, would be placed in the Coptic Museum in Cairo, the statement added.

It was not clear how the items left Egypt illegally or ended up at the museum in Washington, but Egyptian authorities negotiated their return over several years.

Many treasured items were damaged, destroyed or illegally whisked out of the country during the popular uprising against former president Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

Thousands of them have ended up on the international market, on internet sites or under the hammer at auctions.