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Staff Sgt. Aaron Thacker, Multi-National Division South East
BASRA –12.24.2008 Iraqi security forces uncovered hundreds of historical artifacts during two raids in northern Basra Dec. 16.
The 228 ancient artifacts included Sumerian and Babylonian sculpture, gold jewelry and other items from ancient Mesopotamia.
“This is my favorite item,” said Iraqi Col. Ali Sabah, commander of the Basra Emergency Battalion that led the operation, holding a piece of gold jewelry. “It’s gold from the Babylon ages and about 6,000 years old. It doesn’t have a price.”
“I’m very happy because this is my civilization’s heritage,” he said.
The Basra Emergency Battalion led raid operated from tips that smugglers who intended to remove the treasure from the country.
“We got information that there were important Iraqi monuments that were going to be smuggled outside of Iraq,” Sabah said.
After verifying a tip, the operation kicked off with a house raid that recovered 160 pieces of Iraq monuments that were found in the yard.
“We arrested five of the guys and they admitted to the crime,” Sabah said.
These arrests led to a second raid on in al-Ayaqub in northern Basra.
“We knew what we were looking for because we had pictures,” Sabah said
The monuments were found in a box in a corner of the yard covered with blocks. “We will send it back to Baghdad via the Ministry of Defense to action moving it to the Iraqi Museum,” Sabah said.
Sabah said he hopes Iraqi authorities will get more information of this kind.
“The soldiers are very, very proud to conduct this operation,” said Sabah. “I can’t describe how happy we were when the soldiers found it.
“Each of the soldiers will be very proud when they visit the museum with their families and their wives and they can say ‘I brought it back’.”