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Treasures stolen from Libyan bank

TRIPOLI, Libya, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- Several hundred ancient, priceless coins stolen from a Libyan bank early in the country's 2011 uprising may have turned up in Egypt, officials in Libya said.

The National Transitional Council said the coins were among more than 10,000 artifacts, including small statues and jewelry, taken from a Benghazi bank in May by thieves who drilled through the concrete ceiling, the BBC reported.

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A fire at the bank had been blamed on fighting between rebels and forces loyal to former leader Moammar Gadhafi but the fire is now believed to be linked to the theft.

The collection, known as the Treasure of Benghazi, included coins dating to Greek, Roman, Byzantine and early Islamic times.

Most of the treasures had been discovered during the Italian occupation of Libya and were taken from the country but returned in 1961 after Libya's independence.

Fadel al-Hasi, Libya's acting minister for antiquities, said authorities suspect the theft could have been an inside job and the bank's employees had been questioned several times.

He said several hundred coins from the collection may have been recovered in Egypt but that hasn't been confirmed. Al-Hasi said he or a colleague would travel to Egypt in the next week or two.

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The BBC said precious coins also have reportedly appeared at a daily gold market in Benghazi.

The British broadcaster said al-Hasi alerted Interpol about the theft in July and international antiquities markets were being monitored

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