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EGYPT: Antiquities damaged by vandals; collapse of neighboring building feared

January 29, 2011 | 11:04 am

Cairo museum

Anti-government protests have damaged some of the famed Egyptian Museum's ancient artifacts, and curators now fear the treasured collection could be destroyed if a neighboring building engulfed in flames should collapse.

The ruling National Democratic Party headquarters next door was torched by demonstrators a day earlier and was at risk of toppling on the museum, the Al Arabiya news network reported.

"What scares me is that if this building is destroyed, it will fall over the museum," antiquities director Zahi Hawass told the news agency.

Egyptian army troops secured the museum and its grounds early Saturday after young Egyptians armed with clubs set up a human cordon around the site to protect it from looters.

The museum is in the heart of the city center that has been the scene of violent clashes between police and demonstrators demanding an end to the 30-year reign of President Hosni Mubarak. Vandals tore the heads off of two mummies inside the museum before the protective measures were taken, Hawass said.

The museum's prized King Tutankhamun exhibit wasn't damaged, the curator said.

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-- Carol J. Williams

Photo: Egyptians gather next to an army tank that is protecting Cairo's museum from looters. Behind the museum, smoke billows from the headquarters of the ruling National Democratic Party. Credit: Khaled Desouki / AFP / Getty Images

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