Men arrested over attempt to steal 10-tonne statue of Egyptian pharaoh

Videos on the suspects' phones reportedly showed evidence of other illegal excavations

The site of the theft of the statue of Ramses II in Aswan. Source: Al Ahram
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Three men in Egypt have been arrested after allegedly trying to steal a 10-tonne statue of the pharaoh Ramses II using a forklift.

Prosecutors said on Tuesday that the suspects snuck into a quarry in the Nile governorate of Aswan and — using "manual digging tools" as well as the forklift — tried to prise the 3-metre statue from its place.

The quarry itself is government property and is subject to Egypt's Antiquities Protection Law.

Other suspects are being investigated in connection with the attempted theft, prosecutors said.

"Upon examining their mobile phones, the Public Prosecution found video clips shared through social networking applications showing other excavation works," the authorities said.

The suspects will be detained for four days pending investigation.

Aswan is home to some of Egypt's most prized archaeological sites. These include the Roman-era Temple of Isis and other areas that have become tourist attractions. More discoveries are made regularly.

Illegal archaeological excavations are not uncommon in Egypt, especially along the Nile where there are many antiquity sites.

In 2021, prominent businessman Hassan Rateb was arrested for funding illegal excavation works and was eventually convicted.

Updated: January 11, 2023, 12:21 PM