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Looks Like Thieves Used Fighting To Cover Theft Of Libyan Treasures

During the fighting last spring in Benghazi, Libya, between forces loyal to then-dictator Moammar Gadhafi and the opposition, there was a fire at one of the city's banks.

The blaze was blamed on the fighting.

Now, as the BBC and other news outlets are reporting, there's word that "more than 7,000 priceless coins and other precious artifacts were taken" in what's now thought to have been a robbery planned by thieves who took advantage of the chaos in the city to hit the bank.

According to the BBC, authorities suspect it was an inside job and say that "burglars drilled through the concrete ceiling of the bank vault to reach the coins. They targeted the most valuable items only." The fire may have been part of their plan.

Some of the coins have shown up in Egypt, the BBC adds.

Reuters says one of its reporters "found bronze coins stored in the back room of a jewellery shop in Benghazi's souk." When it showed a picture of the coins to Yussuf ben Nasr, director of antiquities for Benghazi, "he said they were probably part of the collection."

"These are priceless national treasures, pieces of our history that have been lost," ben Nasr also told the wire service.

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.