Congress OKs bill to curb antiquities looting by militants

AP News
Posted: Apr 26, 2016 6:57 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress sent legislation to President Barack Obama on Tuesday that cracks down on the looting of Syrian antiquities by Islamic State militants.

By voice vote, the House passed the bill that would prevent cultural artifacts removed from Syria from being sold or imported into the United States. The Senate approved the bill earlier this month. The president is expected to sign the legislation into law, the bill's supporters said.

Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, the bill's sponsor and the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the militants have pocketed millions of dollars by selling irreplaceable artifacts on the black market.

The ransacking also wipes away centuries of Middle East history, said Engel, adding that Congress should be "seizing every available opportunity to cut off" the resources the Islamic State uses to finance its terrorism.

"They want to destroy any trace of any culture or belief system that doesn't conform to their twisted ideology and twisted way of thinking," he said.

The committee's chairman, Republican Rep. Ed Royce of California, co-sponsored the bill. Buyers in the U.S. appear to be a primary destination for many looted antiquities.

"Besides the human toll of (the Islamic State's) deplorable acts, we also mourn the tremendous loss of cultural heritage, as these extremists loot and destroy their way through ancient sites in the territories they conquer," Royce said.