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Officials: Seized artwork might be from Iraqi museums

FBI seeking list of looted antiquities


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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Artwork possibly stolen from at least one Iraqi museum was seized at Washington Dulles International Airport and Boston's Logan Airport during the past week, government officials told CNN on Tuesday.

No arrests have been made, yet and no criminal charges have been filed, the officials said. Investigators must determine the value or significance of the artifacts before any other action is taken, one source said.

At least one of the people being investigated is a journalist, said government officials, who would not elaborate.

There was no word on what types of artwork were involved. Other items such as photographs of people in leadership positions -- apparently stolen from private residences -- also were seized, one source said.

At Dulles, in northern Virginia outside Washington, several pieces of artwork were impounded while the two carrying them into the United States remained free pending an investigation by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service. Officials said they were seeking the advice of art experts to get a better idea of the value or significance of the items seized.

Thousands of antiquities, some dating back millennia, were taken from several Iraqi museums plundered by looters after the U.S.-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime. FBI officials said the United States is home to the most buyers of art, both legal and illegal.

Robert Bonner of the customs service requested photographs of items taken from Baghdad's national museum the day after it was looted.

FBI officials held a meeting Tuesday afternoon to develop a strategy for getting more information out of Baghdad -- such as an inventory of missing artwork or pictures -- that would help them investigate any crimes involving the artwork.

That information would be passed along to airports in particular, as officials there would be the first line of defense in being able to search bags for stolen pieces.

-- CNN's Kelli Arena, Terry Frieden and Jeanne Meserve contributed to this report.


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