BAGHDAD - The United States handed back to Iraq on Wednesday antiquities it said it had seized in a raid on Islamic State fighters in Syria, saying the haul was proof the militants were funding their war by smuggling ancient treasures.
The Iraqi relics were captured by US special forces in an operation in May against an Islamic State commander known as Abu Sayyaf. They included ancient cylindrical stamps, pottery, metallic bracelets and other jewellery, and glass shards from what appeared to be a coloured vase.
The haul also included early Islamic coins.
Islamic State, a hardline Sunni Islamist group, has ransacked some of the greatest archaeological sites in northern Iraq, posting video footage of fighters destroying pre-Islamic monuments they consider idolatrous.
Iraqi officials have been unable to verify the full extent of damage at the sites under Islamic State control, but they have said that footage of the destruction was published in part to distract attention from the fact Islamic State is smuggling antiquities to raise cash.