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Looted Afghan artifacts are big business

Tomb raiding is a big business for looters in Afghanistan, who are earning fortunes smuggling artifacts out to the United States, Europe and Japan.

Since there’s no place to appraise an artifact in war-ravaged Afghanistan, it is difficult to estimate Mahbuhbullah’s wealth. But he says that neither the column nor the marble lion fountain inside the home that he shares with two wives and eight children is his most precious finding after five years of digging.

Mahbuhbullah says the site’s real treasure is 300 pounds of gold, silver jewelry and coins that never were found by the nomad invaders who destroyed Ai Khanum at the end of the second century B.C. The ex-commander says he buried the loot in a wooden case 6 feet underground in the northern town of Mazar-e-Sharif, which the Taliban still control.

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