(CNSNews.com) – Calling it “heritage” that belongs to the people, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) returned Saddam Hussein’s “ceremonial sword” to Iraq, it was announced Monday.
“A ceremonial sword, looted in 2003 from Saddam Hussein’s personal office in Baghdad, was returned to the Republic of Iraq Monday by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI),” the agency said on its website.
The 43-inch embellished blade with gold Arabic writing is said to have been a gift to the Iraqi dictator. Hussein, who murdered and tortured thousands of his own people, was captured in 2003, following the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and executed in 2006.
The sword had been taken from Hussein's personal office in Baghdad and smuggled into the U.S. by American military personnel. It was sold in an auction in Manchester, N.H., in 2011.
ICE returned the sword in a ceremony at Iraqi Ambassador Lukman Faily’s residence in Washington on Monday.
"On behalf of the government and the people of Iraq, I would like to express thanks and appreciation to the U.S. government and Homeland Security Investigations special agents – the soldiers behind the scene – and all of those who contributed in restoring this heritage that belongs to Iraq and its people," Faily said.
"Today is one of these historic days that documents the deep relationship, cooperation and friendship between Iraq and the United States and also shows again the U.S. commitment for rebuilding Iraq and preserving its cultural heritage,” he said.
Hussein’s sword had been sold at a separate auction in 2012 for $15,000. ICE learned of the auction and “seized the sword as a possible Iraqi cultural artifact.”
"Cultural property – such as the sword being returned today to the people of Iraq – represents part of a country’s history that should have never been stolen or auctioned," said HSI Associate Director James Dinkins. "We will continue conducting these types of investigations to ensure that current and future generations aren’t robbed of their nation’s history."
Other items that have been repatriated to Iraq since 2008 include: “a collection of cultural objects including Saddam Hussein-era paintings, AK-47 rifles, ancient tablets, clay statues, ancient gold earrings, coins, a Western Asiatic necklace and terra cotta cones.”