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The Egyptian Museum in downtown Cairo is guarded by an army tank. The smoke seen behind is coming from the headquarters of President Mubarak's National Democratic Party. Amr Nabil/AP

Two Pharaonic mummies destroyed in Egyptian protests

An army unit secured the Egyptian Museum in Central Cairo, but not before two mummies are ruined, reports say.

LOOTERS MANAGED to break into the Egyptial Museum in downtown Cairo and destroy two mummies before the Army was able to secure the building, reports suggest.

Reuters says the country’s top archaeologist told Egypt’s state broadcaster that the museum had been raided by people taking advantage of the country’s anti-government protests, before the Army – and students – surrounded the building in a human chain to ensure that no more of the country’s treasures could be damaged.

“I felt deeply sorry today when I came this morning to the Egyptian Museum, and found that some had tried to raid the museum by force,” Zahi Hawass said.

Egyptian citizens tried to prevent them and were joined by the tourism police, but some [ransackers] managed to enter from above and they destroyed two of the mummies.

The museum building stands next to the office block housing the national headquarters of the National Democratic Party of president Muhammad Hosni Mubarak, which was set alight by demonstrators as part of the upheaval in Cairo.

The museum also houses the majority of the collection of King Tutankhamen, as well as tens of thousands of other artefacts from ancient Egypt. AP reports that the building attracts millions of tourists from overseas every year – one of the reasons why so many civilians tried to protect it.

“I’m standing here to defend and to protect our national treasure,” said one. Referring to the looting of Iraq’s National Museum after the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, another said: “We are not like Baghdad.”

AFP further adds that many residents of the impoverished al Sabtia neighbourhood that houses the museum took to the streets with knives and home-made weapons in order to pry back stolen goods from other looters.

They left some of the recovered items in a nearby mosque for safekeeping, where they will remain until they can be safely returned to the museum.

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