US returns looted artefacts to Afghanistan

Gold appliqués bearing the images of antelopes are put on display before the start of a press conference announcing the repatriation of gold artifacts and an ancient vase to Afghanistan on Sept 9, 2013 in Washington, DC. The United States returned a
Gold appliqués bearing the images of antelopes are put on display before the start of a press conference announcing the repatriation of gold artifacts and an ancient vase to Afghanistan on Sept 9, 2013 in Washington, DC. The United States returned a Roman wine pitcher and five gold artifacts to Afghanistan on Monday in the fourth official repatriation of stolen Afghan cultural treasures in eight years. -- PHOTOS: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States returned a Roman wine pitcher and five gold artifacts to Afghanistan on Monday in the fourth official repatriation of stolen Afghan cultural treasures in eight years.

Kabul's ambassador to Washington, Eklil Hakimi, accepted the objects from the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency during a ceremony at the Afghan embassy.

US customs officers seized the items in March 2011 at Newark airport in New Jersey after investigators discovered they were destined for a New York business suspected of dealing in looted cultural property.

The Roman vase dates from the 5th to 8th century AD, while the other objects include three 5th century BC gold foil appliques depicting antelopes and two 17th century antique coiled ornaments, ICE said in a statement.

"These items are national treasures that form the country's identity and distinguish Afghanistan from the rest of the world," Hakimi said.

Since 2005 the United States has returned several objects to Afghanistan, dating from archaeological artefacts from the second century BC to a late 19th century rifle ammunition loader that vanished from the Kabul National Museum after the Soviet pullout in 1988-89.