US returns over 900 stolen artefacts to Mali

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The United States returned a collection of over 900 stolen artefacts to Mali at a ceremony held in the West African nation's capital on Tuesday.

The 921 looted archaeological and ethnographic objects arrived in Mali last week.

They had been illegally trafficked in the U.S. but were previously listed as replicas.

Mali Prime Minister Choguel Kokalla Maiga and the U.S. Ambassador Dennis Hankins opened carefully packed boxes containing the objects in front of the media at Bamako's National Museum.

Ambassador Hankins then handed the objects to the Prime Minister in a symbolic gesture.

"The United States Government's fine example deserves to be followed by all countries where national heritage objects are kept", Maiga told reporters.

The items were initially discovered in 2009 and were then handed to anthropologists to determine their authenticity.

Among the artefacts are flax stones and axe heads dating from the Neolithic period.

The treasure trove also includes 6 funerary urns dated between 900 and 1700 C.E and a high-necked polychrome pot dated to between 1100 and 1400 C.E.

Mali's 2012 coup, which unleashed years of chaos in Mali when the ensuing power vacuum allowed Islamic extremists later ousted by a French military operation, as well as the coups in 2020 and one on May this year, have complicated efforts to tackle the illegal trafficking of cultural and historical objects, and delayed the return of the 900 artefacts.

Mali plans to put the artefacts on display in the country's museums.

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