An Egyptian minister says thieves targeted most-valuable artefacts after breaking in through roof and descending by ropes.
Thieves have stolen 18 priceless artefacts from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, including two gilded statues of King Tutankhamun, during the political unrest.
Zahi Hawass, the antiquities minister, said the losses were discovered during an inventory of the museum after the protests died down.
Among missing items are a statue of Tutankhamun being carried by a goddess and another of him harpooning. Also stolen is a limestone statue of the pharaoh Akhenaten holding an offering table, a statue of Nefertiti making offerings and several other stone and wooden artefacts.
Hawass said that an investigation is underway and that the “police and army plan to follow up with the criminals already in custody”.
The museum is on the edge of Tahrir square, the heart of three weeks of protests that brought down the president, Hosni Mubarak. It was raided on 28 January by thieves who climbed up a fire escape and then used ropes to lower themselves into the museum.
The thieves appear to have carefully selected some of the most valuable objects while ignoring less important artefacts. “They are not something you would come and randomly find,” an Egyptologist at Cairo’s American University, Ikram Said Salima Ikram, told Reuters.
Restoration work has already started at the museum to repair the damage by looters. Hawass said that 70 pieces were damaged.
The army guarded the museum and its 125 000 antiquities, including Tutankhamun’s funeral mask, throughout the unrest. The building was threatened when the neighbouring ruling party headquarters was burnt down.
At one point, protesters formed a human chain to surround the museum and protect it from thieves and looters. — guardian.co.uk