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Looters in Cairo Museum Amid Egypt Protests

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With the unrest in Egypt continuing over the weekend, the Egyptian Museum in Cairo is now "under military guard" (AP) in response to an attempted looting late Friday.

According to reports, nine men infiltrated the museum, decapitating two 3300-year-old mummies and damaging about 100 other artifacts. When the men were apprehended later that night, they were allegedly still carrying the skulls and a statue of Isis (TIME). Ultimately, nothing was stolen, but damage to the artifacts is still being assessed.

(Photo via Hyperallergic via Vintage69)

The museum, which houses the world's largest collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts, was left unprotected Friday evening after beleaguered President Hosni Mubarak instituted a thirteen-hour curfew. That night, Al-Jazeera reported on the fire at the ruling National Democratic Party's (NDP) headquarters, which threatened the neighboring museum, but pictures of the NDP building from Sunday appear to show that the fire has been extinguished.

An unknown number of Cairo citizens created a barrier around the perimeter of the museum to bolster the efforts of the few authorities initially present. In light of the 2003 looting of the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad, demonstrators spoke of their commitment to Egyptian history. According to the Christian Science Monitor,

One man pleaded with people outside the museum's gates on Tahrir Square not to loot the building, shouting at the crowd: "We are not like Baghdad."

The Egyptian media organization Al-Masry Al-Youm reports that about 1000 people entered the museum, but most looting was confined to the gift shop. Chairman of the Supreme Council of Antiquities Zahi Hawass told TIME:

"I'm glad that those people were idiots...They looted the museum shop. Thank God they thought that the museum shop was the museum."

Other museums were also looted over the weekend, including the smaller Memphis Museum, which former Egyptian Museum director Wafaa el-Saddik told German publication Zeit Online had been "robbed on Saturday morning completely" (Via Hyperallergic). As of Sunday, however, it is reported that the museums are safe, being guarded both by the military and ordinary citizens.