Looters smash treasures and mummies in Egyptian Museum

CAIRO Sat Jan 29, 2011 3:26pm EST

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CAIRO (Reuters) - Looters broke into the Cairo museum housing the world's greatest collection of Pharaonic treasures, smashing several statues and damaging two mummies, while police battled anti-government protesters on the streets.

Arabiya television showed soldiers, armed and in battle fatigues, patrolling the museum that houses tens of thousands of objects in its galleries and storerooms, including most of the King Tutankhamen collection. Display cases were shattered and several broken statues and porcelain figures lay on the floor.

A number of display cases appeared to have been emptied of some of their contents during Friday night's break-in.

Egypt's top archaeologist, Zahi Hawass, told state television Egyptians on the street had tried to protect the building, but that the looters had entered from above. Two mummies on display had been damaged.

"I felt deeply sorry...when I came this morning to the Egyptian Museum and found that some had tried to raid the museum by force last night," Hawass, chairman of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said.

The museum is adjacent to the headquarters of the ruling National Democratic Party that protesters torched ad earlier set ablaze in protests demanding the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak. Some was still rising from the building on Saturday morning.

(Reporting by Yasmine Saleh, Writing by Patrick Werr)

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