Sunday, May 24, 2015

Killed ISIS leader had a trove of antiquities in his compound

 USA Today reports:
One of the few bright spots for the coalition was the successful raid last Saturday on the compound in eastern Syria where a top ISIL operative, Abu Sayyaf, was located. U.S. special operations troops killed Sayyaf, captured his wife and freed a slave the couple had been holding.
Also seized at Sayyaf's compound, USA TODAY has learned, was a trove of antiquities, including ancient coins and a bible. ISIL fighters apparently had plundered the priceless relics during their sweep through Iraq and Syria that began last summer. It appears ISIL planned to sell them on the black market to fund its operations rather than destroy them, the first official said.
It would be extremely helpful to know more about what specific antiquities were found, but this information alone should do much to allay the anxieties of those among us who have worried that exaggerated figures for how much ISIS is making from selling antiquities may destroy our credibility on Capitol Hill or with the Pentagon, making it difficult to get policymakers to take seriously calls to focus resources on protecting sites and on taking down the international antiquities smuggling networks. We don't need to get into the impossible-to-prove numbers game at all. It should be enough to simply point out that leaders of ISIS are themselves involved personally in the gathering and smuggling of illicit antiquities. That should be dispositive. If it isn't it at least will make clear that resistance to addressing the problem has nothing to do with the inability to provide reliable figures of the black market trade in antiquities.

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