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Last Updated: Friday, 9 April, 2004, 22:29 GMT 23:29 UK
French seize Niger artefacts
French customs officials say they have seized a large number of prehistoric artefacts they believe were pillaged from archaeological sites in Niger.

The items were found in the baggage of a passenger who arrived on a flight from Niger's capital, Niamey, at the end of last month.

They included more than 5,000 stone arrowheads and 90 carved stone artefacts, dating back 5,000 years.

Officials said the items appeared in good condition.

They had been stuffed into plastic bags and weighed more than 23kg (50lbs).

The passenger, a 42-year-old man from Mali, initially told customs officials at Roissy airport outside Paris that the items were found in the desert in Niger.

He said he had planned to sell them in the United States, but later said he was going to sell them in France.

Such items were often "uncovered by sand storms after being hidden for thousands of years, which would explain their excellent state", a French Culture Ministry official said.


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