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US returns sword taken from Saddam Hussein’s office to Iraq

The ceremonial weapon was brought back as a war trophy by an American soldier

The associate director of Homeland Security Investigations, James Dinkins, returns the ceremonial sword to the Iraqi Ambassador Lukman Faily

A 43-inch ceremonial sword illegally taken from Saddam Hussein’s office in 2003 during the US invasion of Iraq was returned to the government of Iraq yesterday (29 July). Initially taken by an unidentified member of the US military, the piece was handed over to the Iraqi ambassador Lukman Faily at a private ceremony in Washington, DC.

“Today is one of these historic days that documents the deep relationship, co-operation and friendship between Iraq and the United States and also shows again the US commitment for rebuilding Iraq and preserving its cultural heritage,” said Faily in a statement released by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

After being brought into the US, the sword was consigned to the Amoskeag Auction Company in Manchester, New Hampshire, in October 2011, and was put up for sale on 7 January 2012. It went for $15,000, but Homeland Security Investigations stepped in to retrieve the piece. It was forfeited by the auction house on 30 April 2012.

“The auction house was very co-operative and agreed to relinquish the sword… until it could be determined if it was legally brought here,” says a spokeswoman for ICE. Under US law, certain war trophies can be legally seized by individual soldiers for their personal use, but since this item was not a modern battlefield weapon, it was not considered eligible.

The spokeswoman says the auction house exercised due diligence in buying the sword and that there was no criminal intent on the part of the army personnel who had brought the piece to the US. “The person was under the wrong impression they had the legal authority to do so,” she says, and no charges will be pressed in the US.

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