Egyptian authorities said Tuesday they had detained three people for trying to steal a millennia-old 10-tonne statue of the pharaoh Ramses II with a crane.
The public prosecutor’s office said in a statement it had “ordered three defendants be held in custody for four days pending investigations”, accusing them “of attempting to steal a pharaonic statue” from the ancient southern city of Aswan, some 675 kilometres (420 miles) south of Cairo on the Nile.
The statement said police had reported that “three people were arrested in possession of manual digging tools and heavy equipment, a crane”, which they had used in a bid to “lift the statue and excavate antiquities in the area”.
The Antiquities Authority in Aswan has proven the “antiquity (of the statue) and attributed it to Ramses II, with a weight of approximately 10 tonnes”, the statement added
The prosecutor’s office ordered officers to “quickly investigate others who were involved with the suspects in the crime.”
Ramses II, one of the most famous pharaohs of the 19th dynasty, ruled for 67 years. He was known as a great warrior and prolific builder who ordered the construction of temples across Egypt.
Over the past decade, Egypt has recovered about 29,000 antiquities found to have been taken abroad through illegitimate means.