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Latest update : 2015-05-04

Syria: On the trail of looted antiquities

As the war in Syria enters its fifth year, the trafficking of looted antiquities is adding a new dimension to the tragic conflict. Many Syrian artefacts are smuggled across the border into Turkey and sold to international collectors. Our reporters went to Syria and Turkey to investigate the trade in these stolen treasures. They met members of the looted antiquities underworld, who agreed to speak on camera, albeit often anonymously.

Despite UNESCO sounding the alarm over the export of looted Syrian antiquities for the past three years, the illegal trade continues. FRANCE 24's reporters went to Syria to meet the people involved in these international trafficking rings.

Unemployed Syrians dig the earth in search of ancient buried treasures: coins from the Roman era, oil lamps, gold statues or other ceramic artefacts sometimes dating back more than 3,000 years. Their value can be priceless.

After making contact with traffickers in Turkey, they then have to cross the border illegally to deliver their merchandise and pocket a few dollars.

In Turkey, highly organised traffickers can earn hundreds of thousands of dollars from smuggling these antiquities and selling them abroad, and often online. They are just a few of those who benefit from Syria’s cultural heritage being plundered.

By Chris HUBY , Hédi AOUIDJ , Jalal AL ALEPI

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