Turkish police arrested a suspected smuggler and recovered at least 159 historical artifacts on Saturday.
The artifacts, believed to date back to the Roman era, were found in an operation in the Tarsus district of Mersin province, according to security officials.
A vehicle used by the suspect was also seized.
The artifacts have been delivered to the relevant authorities in Tarsus, the officials said.
Recently, thousands of artifacts were also seized in another major anti-smuggling operation. The operation dubbed “Anadolu” (Anatolia) spanned 30 Turkish provinces, as well as Bulgaria, Croatia and Serbia. In that international operation, Turkish security forces nabbed 76 suspects and recovered at least 4,122 artifacts. Including those already apprehended, authorities issued arrest warrants for 92 suspects in total.
Thousands of anti-smuggling operations are carried out across Turkey every year to halt the illegal sale of historical objects and protect the country's rich cultural heritage. This issue is crucial to a country home to about 3,000 ancient cities from 42 civilizations and whose tourism industry relies on its rich historical heritage to attract millions of foreign visitors each year.
Called “the cradle of civilizations,” Turkey is home to a diverse legacy that has made it a good target for smugglers for decades. Foreigners have looted everything from precious treasures to pieces of tiles from mosques – sometimes with authorities turning a blind eye to the thefts in the past. Nowadays, authorities are pursuing a global hunt for artifacts that adorn the collections of museums and private collectors. In the past decade, Ankara has managed to bring 2,712 artifacts, including small statues and sarcophagi, back from overseas.
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