The items include examples of the Begram Ivories, seen at the British Museum’s Afghanistan 2011 exhibition, and an important sculpture of Buddha. Both items were stolen and had ended up on the black market.
The items were seized by customs officials and the Art and Antiques Unit of the Metropolitan Police as they passed through Britain, presumably for sale on the black market.
Assisted by the Royal Air Force, the collection left the UK last week, bound for Kabul, via the army base in Helmand.
The National Museum of Afghanistan, also known as the Kabul Museum, is situated in the center of Kabul City. It was built during the reign of King Amanullah Khan in 1922. The collections dated back to several millennia and were the most important in Central Asia.
During the Civil War in the early 1990s, the museum was plundered several times, resulting in a loss of 70% of the objects on display. The Bactrian Gold or the Bactrian Hoard, a treasure cache that laid under the “Hill of Gold” or Tillia tepe in Afghanistan for 2,000 years until Soviet archeologists exposed it before the 1979 invasion, was moved to underground vaults of the Afghanistan Central Bank. The hoard was thought to have been lost at some point; it was, however, found in a secret vault under the central bank in Kabul in 2003. The hoard was moved to the vault by the order of the last Communist president of Afghanistan, Mohammad Najibullah. The vault was locked with keys which were distributed to five trusted individuals, and in order to open the vaults, all the keys had to be available. The vault protected the Bactrian Hoard on numerous occasions from attempts by the Taliban to loot it.