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Video: Mali struggles to save cultural artifacts from trafficking

FRANCE 24 screen grab | Malian cultural artifacts.

After fighting erupted in Mali in 2012, a number of the country’s cultural treasures were hidden to protect them from Islamist militants who wanted to destroy them. But now these artifacts face a different threat: trafficking.

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Mali has struggled to safeguard its heritage from looters, who steal and then sell rare works to collectors.

“Since the conflict began in Mali, there are entire regions, particularly in the Sahel, where the state no longer has any authority and where acts of looting have become completely rife,” Samuel Sidibé, director of the National Museum of Mali, told FRANCE 24. “For example, in an area called Ouenza one or two years ago, there was a huge raid at an archaeological site and there was no real action we could take against the looters.”

Although the international police organisation Interpol has been able to stop some artifacts from leaving the country, there is no agency dedicated to preventing the illicit trafficking of cultural property.

“In the same way that drug trafficking makes some people very rich, so does smuggling artifacts,” Elhadj Baba Wangara, commissioner of Interpol in Mali, said. “We haven’t identified organised groups yet, but we’ve already targeted individuals.”

To watch FRANCE 24’s full report on this story, click on the player above.

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