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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 June 2007, 11:42 GMT 12:42 UK
Austria finds stolen Stradivarius
Christian Altenburger with the returned Stradivarius violin
Only 650 Stradivarius instruments are believed to be in existence
A rare Stradivarius violin worth an estimated 2.5m euros ($3.4m) has been returned to its owner in Vienna after it was stolen last month.

Austrian police discovered the valuable instrument in a raid on a flat in the capital, arresting six asylum seekers from Georgia as suspects.

Musician Christian Altenburger said he was "overjoyed" at the return of the violin, which was found unscathed.

Another violin and three bows were also stolen from Mr Altenburger's safe.

Austrian Interior Minister Guenther Platter described the investigation as "exemplary."

"I never dared to hope that my instrument would be found so quickly," Mr Altenburger said.

Distinguished violin maker

The investigation led police to a Georgian gang wanted for 21 other burglaries, Major Manfred Briegl told a press conference.

"The fact that alcohol and clothes were also stolen from the flat led us to immediately rule out a contracted theft and reminded us of the operating methods of a Georgian gang," the leader of the search said.

Police arrested one man and two other suspects in a western district of Vienna on Tuesday. Another three men were arrested at a nearby flat.

There police also recovered a Vuillaume violin and three bows stolen from Mr Altenburger's flat, the AFP news agency reported.

Antonio Stradivari is considered to be the most distinguished craftsman of the instrument.

He made over 1,000 violins, violas and violoncellos, and was commissioned by King James II of England and King Charles III of Spain.

It is believed that only about 650 of these instruments survive.

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