Blood & Gold: Children Dying As Egypt’s Treasures Are Looted

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Blood & Gold: Children Dying As Egypt’s Treasures Are Looted

Two kids take a break at a heavily looted ancient cemetery at Abusir el-Malek, located south of Cairo.

Credit: Photo courtesy of Egypt Heritage Taskforce

Since the 2011 Egyptian revolution, political instability and a tourism decline have led to widespread looting of archaeological sites — with deadly consequences.

Children forced to work in dangerous conditions to pillage historical sites have died. Antiquities guards were gunned down within an ancient tomb they were trying to protect. Mummies have been left out in the sun to rot after their tombs were robbed. And looting pits have pockmarked ancient sites in such vast numbers that words cannot adequately describe.

A Live Science investigation found that not only were these horrific events happening but that an enormous amount of potentially looted Egyptian artifacts had made their way into the United States. These artifacts include a vast number of gold coins. [See Photos of the Looting in Egypt]

Documents obtained from the US Census Bureau by Live Science reveal that since 2011, more than $143 million worth of artifacts have been exported from Egypt to the United States. The artifacts were brought into the United States for personal or commercial use, rather than temporary display in a museum, the documents say. The documents also show that the vast majority of the artifacts were shipped to New York City, where many auction houses, antiquities dealers and art galleries are based. However, detecting a shipment of looted artifacts and proving that they were looted is very difficult, researchers and government officials told Live Science.

The influx of Egyptian artifacts into the United States shows no signs of abating. In the first five months of 2016, about $26 million worth of artifacts were exported from Egypt to the United States, the Census Bureau documents say.

Since 2011, more than 45 lbs. (20 kilograms) of antique gold coins have been exported to the United States from Egypt — that’s about twice the weight of Tutankhamun’s famous golden death mask. Between 1998 and 2010 only 4 pounds (less than 2 kilograms) of gold coins were exported from Egypt to the United States the documents say. [In Photos: The Life and Death of King Tut]

Photos provided by Egypt’s Heritage Task Force, which has been trackinglooting in Egypt — show children working at Abusir el-Malek, a village south of Cairo that holds an ancient cemetery with thousands of burials. In the photos, the children can be seen carrying artifacts and rummaging around in pits and shafts. The photographs show how narrow and deep the holes get, creating dangerous working conditions that have led to the deaths of children researchers have found. The photos show that the landscape the children work in is scarred by these pits and is strewn with the bones of ancient mummies.

A close-up of a mummy’s head at the Bahariya Oasis.

Credit: Photo courtesy of Egypt Heritage Taskforce

“Children have been used primarily to reach small burial shafts and tunnels. Unfortunately, many children have lost their lives in the process,” wrote Monica Hanna, an Egyptologist working with Egypt’s Heritage Task Force, in a paper she published in the book “Countering Illicit Traffic in Cultural Goods” (ICOM, 2015).

In fact, more than 25 children, employed by professional antiquities gangs, died last year in shafts in Abusir el-Malek, Hanna told Live Science.

Little of the money from the sale of artifacts goes to the children’s families, Hanna said. Instead, most of it ends up in the pockets of antiquities dealers and middlemen, who smuggle it out of Egypt and into other countries, such as the United States. “Many of them [the middlemen] are part of the international mafia that smuggles drugs and arms in the region,” Hanna said, according to her research and that of her colleagues.

Hanna said buyers of Egyptian antiquities should know that “the object you buy does not only have a child’s blood on it, but also [that] looting activities have completely destroyed the site similarly to what ISIS does to other archaeological sites in the region.” [Reclaimed History: 9 Repatriated Egyptian Antiquities]

Children working in the shafts are not the only ones being killed in the looting. Two guards — Mustafa Ali, 36, and Asrawy, 56 — were gunned down by a group of robbers on Feb. 20, 2016, while inside a 4,000-year-old tomb at the site of Dayr al-Barsha,according to a team of archaeologists working at the site. Both guards left behind families, including a wife pregnant with twins. (A GoFundMe page was set up by the archaeological team working at Dayr al-Barsha to help out the families of the two killed guards.)

They died in a hail of bullets. “Over 20 bullet holes impacted in the relief decoration on the walls of the exterior room and two large blackened blood stains on the floor indicate the spots [in the tomb] where Asrawy and Mustafa were murdered,” the archaeological team wrote in a statement on the web page.

It can be very challenging to find looted artifacts that are being exported to the United States, sources tell Live Science.

The landscape at Abusir el-Malek, south of Cairo, is littered with ancient human bones from looted burials.

Credit: Photo courtesy of Egypt Heritage Taskforce

“It is extremely difficult to prove that any single artifact that arrives in the U.S. has been looted,” said Erin Thompson, a professor of art crime at the City University of New York. “Middlemen are experts in making looted and smuggled antiquities look like they are part of the legitimate market by cleaning and restoring them and creating forged paperwork that makes it seem like Egypt gave permission for its export.”

“Suddenly, an artifact that was ripped out of the ground last month is indistinguishable from one that’s been in a private collection for decades, and which is entirely legal to export and sell,” Thompson added.

Furthermore, U.S. Customs doesn’t check all shipments; a spokesperson for U.S. Customs and Border Protection told Live Science that the agency conducts audits of antique shipments but declined to say how often this is done.

The spokesperson also said that it is the responsibility of the person importing the shipment to declare the shipment’s value. This means that the $143 million is simply the value of the imported Egyptian artifacts being declared by importers; the actual resale value could be higher.

Additionally, the documents obtained by Live Science show only shipments that made it to the U.S., the Census Bureau spokesperson said. Because the documents don’t include shipments that Customs agents stopped and impounded, the amount of Egyptian antiquities reaching the United States could be even higher.

Many of these artifacts are simply declared by importers as being “antiques” that are over 100 years old, although some are labeled more specifically.

The antique gold coins are the largest category of identified artifacts recorded in the documents. The data show that before 2009, few gold coins were brought into the United States from Egypt. The number grew in 2009 and surged in the years following the 2011 Egyptian revolution.

Coins have been minted in Egypt for more than 2,000 years. Some of the earliest Egyptian coins were minted by the Ptolemies, a dynasty of rulers descended from Ptolemy Soter, one of Alexander the Great’s generals. Alexander conquered Egypt in 332 B.C., and the Ptolemies ruled the country until 30 B.C., when Cleopatra VII, the last Ptolemaic ruler, died by suicide after the Battle of Actium. After Cleopatra’s death, Egypt was incorporated into the Roman Empire.

One explanation for the abrupt increase in imported gold coins comes from satellite research conducted by a team led by Sarah Parcak, an anthropology professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

After examining satellite images of Egypt from the past two decades, her team found that the looters prefer portable objects from sites dating to periods after minted coins were invented. “Overall, 55% of the affected sites were of Late Period (Dynasties 26-30) to Roman-period date,” Parcak’s team wrote in a paper published in February in the journal Antiquity.

Some of the gold coins coming into the United States could also be forgeries, Hanna told Live Science. “A lot of local jewelers fake gold coins and sell them as antiquities,” she said.

Original article on Live Science.


US Special Operations troops are bringing the fight to ISIS in Libya

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David Choi,Business Insider 8 minutes ago

Libyan forces fights ISIS

(A fighter of Libyan forces allied with the U.N.-backed government fires a shell with Soviet made T-55 tank at Islamic State fighters in Sirte, Libya, August 2, 2016.Goran Tomasevic/Reuters)

For the first time, US and Libyan officials have confirmed that US Special Forces troops were on the ground fighting Islamic State militants in Libya.

Due to the fact that the mission was not  yet made public, sources that spoke on condition of anonymity told The Washington Post that the roles of these operators were limited in scope to merely assisting Libyan forces by exchanging intelligence information to coordinate American airstrikes.

Stationed with British forces at a joint operations center near the coastal city of Sirte — ISIS’ stronghold in North Africa — these elite servicemembers were also reported to have constructed small outposts in the area to establish friendly relations with the locals.

This decision from the Pentagon comes at the heels of the commencement of airstrikes on ISIS’ position in Sirte. The Washington Post reports that since these airstrikes received approval last week, almost 30 militants have been killed in addition to the destruction of numerous ISIS-owned fighting positions and vehicles.

In a quote from the article, European Council on Foreign Relations expert Mattia Toaldo explained that the US’s role in Sirte was different than elsewhere in Libya because the numerous political factions wouldn’t mind an intervention against ISIS’ spread.

“As long as they keep this low profile … the risks both for the US and for the Libyan government are quite low,” he stated.

Since their arrival in Libya in 2014, ISIS militants in Africa have imitated their Middle Eastern counterparts through their brutal over-the-top methods of garnering attention. To combat their spread, other NATO nations, such as France, have also been reported to have deployed special forces operators into the region earlier this year.

Western nations have started deploying special operators against ISIS in greater numbers recently. Newly published photographs show British special operators close to the ISIS front lines in Syria, and US special operators have been active working alongside the Kurds in northern Syria.

German ministers consider burqa ban in response to terror threat

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German ministers consider burqa ban in response to terror threat

Ministers also plan 15,000 more armed police by 2020 and increased surveillance of public transport.

  • August 10, 2016 08:58 BST

    Updated 55 min ago

Woman in burqa

There are calls over Europe for a ban on the burqaReuters

A burqa ban is among a series of measures being considered by German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere following terror attacks carried out by refugees.

Maiziere and state interior ministers from the Christian Democrats (CDU) and their parliamentary allies, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Social Union (CSU), are seeking to introduce series of legal and police reforms in response to the terror threat.

The ministers plan to deploy 15,000 more armed police officers by 2020, and increase surveillance of public transport. They would also ban burqas and niqabs, the veils worn by some Muslim women, Deutsche Welle reported.

Maiziere also wants to speed up the deportation of failed asylum seekers who are a threat to public safety, according to Bild.

France became the first European country to ban face coverings like the burqa in public in 2010, a controversial policy that was criticised by some human rights groups as infringing on religious freedom. Belgium and Switzerlandhave also since introduced bans.

Earlier this month German deputy finance minister Jens Spahn declared his support for a German burqa ban.

On 19 July, a 17-year-old Afghan refugee injured five people in a knife and axe attack near Wuerzburg, southern Germany, before being shot dead by police. It was followed on 24 July by a suicide bomb attack by a 27-year-old Syrian refugee near a music festival in Ansbach in which 10 people were injured. Both attacks were claimed by jihadist group Islamic State (Isis).

The attacks have led to increased opposition in Germany to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s policy of granting asylum to refugees from war zones.

Among other measures being considered by de Maiziere and his regional allies are measures to deport foreign hate preachers, and end the dual citizenship of those found to have fought for “foreign terror organisations.” The Ministers and regional party chiefs will meet on 18 August to finalise the measures, which will then require the approval of Germany’s lower house of parliament, the Bundesrat.

Mystery mummified monster discovered in Siberia diamond pit

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Mystery mummified monster discovered in Siberia diamond pit

Remains of a strange creature have been found by Siberian miners in diamond-yielding sands.

Siberia mummified monster

This little mummified monster has been found in a diamond mine north of SiberiaSiberian Times

A bizarre mummified creature has been discovered at the heart of a diamond mine in the Sakha Republic, in northern Siberia. This ancient “monster” could date back to between 252 and 66 million years ago.

The Siberian Times reports that the miners who found the remains had been working at the Udachnaya pipe diamond deposit, an open-pit diamond mine located just outside the Arctic Circle.

Siberia mummified monster
The Udachnaya pipe diamond deposit is an open-pit diamond mine located just outside the Arctic Circle.Siberian Times

The site was discovered in 1955 and since then yielded 350 million tonnes of ore containing rough diamonds. There has also been a number of unusual discoveriessuch as that of a mystery red rock full of diamonds.

However, no find has been as strange as the mummified monster that has just been uncovered. Its origins are particularly puzzling because no one is capable just yet to say what this species is – it is like nothing ever found before in the region.The miners believed they had just stumbled upon the remains of a previously unknown species of dinosaurs.

Their theory has yet to be proven. The creature will therefore be taken for more analysis to the regional capital Yakutsk, a city 1,686km south of the Udachnaya diamond pit.

Siberia mummified monster
The miners believed the creature to be an ancient unknown dinosaurSiberian Times

Other hypothesis about the little monster’s potential origins are that it might have bee the ancestor of the wolverine, a carnivorous mammal resembling a small bear or of the marten – another slender, agile mammal living in the snow forests of Siberia.

Closer analysis of the mummy’s morphology, bones, and of possible DNA samples should yield more clues about its origins and give a more precise approximation of the time it lived at.


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Even at the height of summer, when the upper crust of Cairo descends on the nearby Mediterranean coast, the world’s largest open-air armory is a bleak place. With up to 17 million land mines buried in the sands of northwest Egypt, no one can set foot beyond the carefully demarcated boundaries for fear of losing a limb—or their life. Home to what’s likely the world’s largest unexploded minefield, the area is an eerie reminder of the ferocity of World War II. It saw serious action in the early 1940s as the British sought to stymie the advance of Nazi Army General Erwin Rommel’s vaunted Afrika Korps, and the German, British and Italian armies buried millions of tons of explosives as they battled one another across North Africa. But until recently, the minefields of the Sahara posed a problem mainly for local Bedouins, who are among the few who live in the area; since 2006, they’ve suffered more than 150 casualties.

Over the past few years, however, these munitions have become part of a new and worrisome trend. As the Islamic State and other jihadi groups have grown throughout the region, sometimes roaming unchecked across long, porous borders, a few have realized the potential power of this massive cache of explosives, much of it buried here by the Nazis. Military and civilian officials in Cairo say ISIS and other groups have already MacGyvered these decades-old mines, using their components for bombs, improvised explosive devices (IED) and other instruments of death. “We’ve had at least 10 reports from the military of terrorists using old mines, says Fathy el-Shazly, a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia who until recently served as Egypt’s land mine clearance czar. “Even now, these things trouble us in different ways.”

The phenomenon, he says, began in 2004, when extremists killed 34 people in the Sinai resort of Taba with seven bombs crafted from old munitions, and has become relatively common practice as security has devolved in parts of Egypt, especially since Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, the country’s most prolific homegrown jihadi group, pledged allegiance to ISIS in late 2014.

Given the large number of modern munitions available in the region, it might seem unusual that some extremist groups and criminal gangs have taken an interest in the debris of a distant conflict. From Saudi Arabia, the world’s second largest arms importer, to Libya, whose tiny army once boasted at least as many guns as the British military, the Middle East and North Africa are awash with advanced weaponry.


Egyptian military deminers conduct operations near the Mediterranean coastal road where the World War II Battle of El Alamein took place, on October 27, 2007. According to the Egyptian State Information service, of the 110 million landmines worldwide, there are 23 million in Egypt. The vast majority (17.5 million) were planted during the World War II campaign that pitted Germany’s Afrika Korps against Britain’s 8th Army.MIKE NELSON/EPA

But for groups like ISIS’s fledgling affiliate that operates in Egypt’s vast arid interior, as well as in neighboring Libya, where ISIS also has a foothold, a bomb is a bomb. With periodic supply problems and an exceptional quantity of large anti-tank mines rich in explosives seemingly readily available, the temptation to pilfer the relics of Hitler’s war has proved too tantalizing to resist.

Most recently, in March, a jihadi IED attack on an army convoy near Egypt’s Red Sea coast that killed five soldiers was blamed on explosives purloined from old mines. Military officials, who recently received a delivery of more than 700 mine-resistant vehicles from the U.S. to help them combat an insurgency in North Sinai, are trying to ward off the threat, with mixed results.

Digging up these mines is a task fraught with danger. Shifting sands and fierce winds periodically trigger the aging devices. But residents of villages around Marsa Matruh, 130 miles east of the Libyan border, are poor—the thick cordon of explosives that surrounds the area for 2.5 miles in three directions has hurt development—so for some desert-dwelling tribesmen, who struggle in the sparsely populated expanses far from the centers of power in the Nile Valley and Delta, the risk of uncovering these mines to sell the scrap metal and explosive material is worth the reward. “They do this because they have nothing else to live on,” says Abdul Moneim Waer, who lost three fingers to a mine when he was young and now campaigns for land mine awareness in El Alamein.

Egypt is not the only country in the region where World War II armaments have found their way back onto the market. Weapons investigators in Iraq recently documented a 1942 Lee-Enfield rifle that Kurdish peshmerga captured from ISIS in the northern town of Tuz Khurmatu. In Mali, authorities have dug up an array of deadly arms, including a stockpile of more than 10,000 old European guns. Video footage from Syria suggests that a rebel group has at least one operational howitzer dating from the 1940s.

And then there’s lawless Libya, the munitions bazaar of Saharan Africa, where arms researchers have found an ample supply of Allied and Axis weaponry. “We’ve seen several dozen British Webley revolvers previously or presently for sale, and then some Italian cavalry carbines, some Mausers, Bren guns,” says N.R. Jenzen-Jones of Armament Research Services, an independent arms consultancy, who is currently working on a report about the role of “legacy” arms in modern conflict zones.

But what makes Egypt’s minefields so problematic—aside from the large volume of bomb-making matter—is that they protect smugglers and jihadis penetrating inland from the uncontrollable Libyan border. By hiring local guides with good desert know-how, some of these SUV convoys—which tote everything from guns to fake brand-name cigarettes—carefully pick their way through stretches of the country ridden with land mines. Because they have no fear of stumbling on army patrols, who won’t stray into contaminated areas, “it’s become a refuge for them,” Shazly says.

In an effort to counter the security hazards posed by the mines, as well as to free up sizable oil reserves reputed to lie beneath the afflicted area, Egyptian authorities say they’ve accelerated clearance efforts. Three million mines have been removed since 1981, making available over 600,000 acres, according to the army. The government insists the rest will be disposed of within the next three years.

But for a desert whose inhabitants are reeling from increased terrorism, none of this can come soon enough. They’ve seen American and Croatian oil workers kidnapped and killed over the past two years—at a time when jihadis launched several large and deadly attacks on the Egyptian military.

The government’s efforts to regain total control of the region have sometimes compounded the problem. Eight Mexican tourists were killed last year when an Egyptian Apache helicopter mistook them for jihadis and opened fire with rockets and a machine gun. A few months earlier, a gas exploration crew from a French company only narrowly avoided a similar fate, an American oil worker tells Newsweek on the condition of anonymity, as he wasn’t authorized to speak to the press. Since then, energy companies have worked out a system whereby they fly colored flags from their jeeps when traveling in restricted areas, calling in the color to their liaison officer every morning.

For most Bedouin, however, their real ire is reserved for those who planted these killing devices. “They’re getting away from their responsibility,” says Ahmed Amer, head of the Land Mine Survivors Association in Marsa Matruh, which lobbies for victims’ rights, referring to the European powers that were responsible for laying most of the munitions. “They can’t just come here and then go away,” he adds. “They must clean this up.

400-year-old petroglyphs created by indigenous people discovered on Hawaii beach

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400-year-old petroglyphs created by indigenous people discovered on Hawaii beach

At least 17 petroglyphs stretching along 60ft of coastline discovered by tourists from Texas.

hawaii petroglyph mystery figure

One of the petroglyphs showing a figure was discovered by tourists on a beach in HawaiiHawaii SHPD

A series of petroglyphs dating back at least 400 years have been discovered along the coast of Hawaii. At least 17 petroglyphs created by aboriginal inhabitants were found along the Waianae coastline and they are now being preserved by Hawaii’s State Historic Preservation Division (SHPD) and the US Army.

The petroglyphs, etched in sandstone, stretch along 60ft of beach and depict figures. Most are around a foot long, but one measured between four and five feet from head to toe. Shortly after being exposed, they were covered back up by sand washing over them.

Army archaeologist Alton Exzabe said: “What’s interesting is the Army in Hawaiʻi manages several thousand archaeological sites, but this is the first one with petroglyphs directly on the shoreline. What’s exciting for me, is I grew up coming to this beach and now as an archaeologist working for the Army, helping to manage this site, we discovered these petroglyphs that have never been recorded. Some people have said they’ve seen them before, but this is quite a significant find.”

hawaii petroglyph mystery figure
Hawaii SHPD

Both the SHPD and Army have been working together since to record and document all of the petroglyphs. “We can now come up with a plan to further protect and preserve this site,” Exzabe said. “The ones with the fingers, for me, are pretty unique. I believe there are some elsewhere with fingers, but fingers and hands are pretty distinct, as well as the size of them. We find a lot of petroglyphs that are a foot or so tall, but this one measures 4-5 feet from head to toe. It’s pretty impressive.”

At present, they have found 17 figures, but there could be more. Glen Kila, a descendent of aboriginal families who first lived on the Waianae coast, said the discovery was very important. “They record our genealogy and religion,” he said. “It’s very important to know about the lineal descendants of the area and their understanding of these petroglyphs. The interpretation of these petroglyphs can only be interpreted by the lineal descendants who are familiar with its history and culture.”

Alan Downer, SHPD administrator, added: “We’re eager to join the Army in developing a protection and preservation plan for these petroglyphs. They are an important part of Hawaii’s culture and while sands have covered them again, in time they will reappear and we want to make sure people know that they are fragile and culturally sensitive and should only be viewed; not touched.”

petroglyphs hawaii
The pegroglyphs were found along a 60ft stretch of beachHawaii SHPD


Judo medalist beaten up while celebrating on Copacabana Beach

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Henry Bushnell,Fourth-Place Medal 15 hours ago

Dirk van Tichelt won his first Olympic judo medal Monday. (Getty)

Dirk van Tichelt won his first Olympic judo medal Monday. (Getty)

Dirk Van Tichelt probably didn’t envision one of the greatest days of his life ending in the hospital. But that’s exactly where the Belgian judoka found himself Monday night hours after winning his first-ever Olympic medal.

Van Tichelt won bronze in the 73-kg judo competition on Monday. Naturally, he went off to Copacabana Beach that night to celebrate the achievement. And that’s where things went awry.

Van Tichelt was reportedly assaulted by a thief on the famous beach, and was struck in the face. He was taken to the hospital after the incident.

The thief, who was reportedly Brazilian, came away with a cellphone, but, crucially, not with a bronze medal. That allowed Van Tichelt to take this epic picture the following day:

The Belgian Olympic Committee released a statement confirming the details, and saying that Van Tichelt didn’t require treatment at the hospital. He appeared at a media event the next day with a black eye, and, undoubtedly, a smile on his face.

Van Tichelt now has more than just a medal to commemorate his Olympic success.