Libya’s ancient sites not exposed to same risk as in Syria
TUNIS - Reuters
REUTERS photoLibya has not faced the same risk to its antiquities as Syria and Iraq, though there is evidence the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is involved in the smuggling of antiquities, Libyan and international experts said May 11.
The most famous classical sites have remained largely undamaged, though some illegally excavated artifacts are being smuggled out of the country and Islamist fighters have targeted mosques and Sufi shrines, the experts said on the sidelines of a conference on how to protect Libya’s cultural heritage.
Libya is rich in ancient sites, including some of North Africa’s finest Roman and Greek ruins, as well as prehistoric rock art in the desert region of Fezzan. But their preservation has been threatened by the political chaos and security vacuum that followed the toppling of Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.
ISIL took control of the coastal city of Sirte last year and established a presence in several other parts of the country, leading to fears that it would attack and damage key ancient sites as it has done in Syria and Iraq.
Though ISIL may still try to attack classical sites as they “search for visibility,” a bigger risk is from illegal excavations and looting, and illicit construction by locals, said Stefano De Caro, the director-general of the International Center for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property.
“The big difference from Syria is that here they are attacking the Islamic heritage sites more than the classical heritage,” he said.