UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- The United Nations cultural preservation agency says illegal excavations taking place at important archaeological sites all over Syria are "extremely dangerous" and "lethal" to the country's cultural heritage.
Francesco Bandarin, UNESCO's assistant director-general for culture, said Wednesday the illegal digging is happening from the ancient Sumerian city of Mari to the ancient cities of Ebla, Palmyra and Apamea.
He said stolen archaeological material is being trafficked through illegal systems into other countries and markets.
UNESCO has been raising public awareness of illegal trafficking and started training police and customs forces in neighboring countries on spotting looted items in the past month, Bandarin said.
He said some objects have been retrieved in Beirut and other places, but "we certainly have intercepted a very, very small amount of what has been pillaged."