US offers $5 million reward to stop ISIS from plundering antiquities

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The United States is stepping up its effort to stop the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) from ransacking and profiting from antiquities, as well as oil, by offering a $5 million reward for information that disrupts such activities.

“ISIL’s damage and looting of historic sites in Syria and Iraq have not only destroyed irreplaceable evidence of ancient life and society but have also helped fund its reign of terror inside those countries,” the State Department said in a press release, using an alternative acronym for ISIS.

“Working together with other nations and private organizations in the preservation of cultural heritage, the United States is committed to disrupting the illegal trafficking of antiquities and proving that ISIL’s tactics of murder and destruction will not erase Iraq and Syria’s rich history and cultures,” the release said.

The department announced the “Reward for Justice” program on Tuesday at an event at the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

ISIS makes millions of dollars off trafficking oil and antiquities to fund its operations, U.S. officials have said.

Also, historians and others have lamented the loss of historical artifacts, such as those from the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra.

“The United States joins with the international community to urge all parties in Iraq and Syria and the international community to respect and protect archaeological, historic, religious and cultural sites, including museums and archives, and reaffirm that all those who destroy important cultural property must be held accountable,” the State Department said in its release.

In June, a bill with the same intent — to stop ISIS from profiting off antiquities — passed the House. The bill would give the Obama administration the authority to impose import restrictions on Syrian antiquities.

The bill is still awaiting a vote in the Senate.