- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The U.S. announced a new campaign on Tuesday to stop Islamic State militants from smuggling priceless artifacts out of the region to be sold at auctions, by offering a $5 million reward for information that could thwart such activities. 

The State Department announced the effort, known as the “Reward for Justice” program at an event at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. The department will work with other nations to ensure the extremist group does not erase Iraq and Syria’s rich cultural history. 

“ISIL’s damage and looting of historic sites in Syria and Iraq have not only destroyed irreplaceable evidence of ancient life and society but have also helped fund its reign of terror inside those countries,” the State Department said in a press release, using an alternative acronym for the Islamic State.

Last month the FBI issued a warning urging art dealers in the U.S. to take extra precautions when buying artifacts from the Middle East, citing evidence that collectors may have been offered stolen antiques plundered by the terrorist group. 

The militants have used the money form sales of stolen antiquities to fund terrorist activities. 

In June, the House passed a bill to stop the militants from profiting off the sale of stolen artifacts. The bill would give the Obama administration the authority to impose import restrictions on antiquities coming in from Syria. The bill is still awaiting a vote in the Senate. 

The stolen antiques have been dubbed “blood antiques,” adapted from the term “blood diamonds” used to refer to gems that financed fighters in African wars from Angola to Sierra Leone.

 


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