Bangladesh theft prompts rethink
Bangladesh has cancelled plans to send rare artefacts to a Paris exhibition after two statues of the Hindu god Vishnu were stolen from Dhaka Airport.
The 1,500-year-old statues disappeared from an airport warehouse hours before they were to be flown to Paris for an exhibition at the Guimet Museum.
Interpol has been asked to help track them down.
One consignment of items had already been sent to France when the theft occurred on Saturday.
A government spokesman told Reuters news agency that the artefacts already in Paris would have to be returned to Bangladesh.
"The Guimet Museum would be informed, regretfully, that it would not be possible to go ahead with holding the exhibition of the items as planned," a Bangladesh government statement said.
Dhaka police say they have launched a nationwide hunt for the statues and have arrested 15 people in connection with the theft.
The terracotta statues, valued at about $65,000, were being sent to the Paris for a major international exhibition on Bangladesh's history and culture.
"These are masterpieces and very valuable to our cultural heritage," Shamsuzzaman Khan, a former head of the Bangladesh National Museum, told the Associated Press news agency.
"The government should not have agreed to send them abroad."
Vishnu is the second god in the Hindu triumvirate, which consists of three gods responsible for the creation, upkeep and destruction of the world.
The other two gods are Brahma and Shiva. Hinduism is a minority faith in Bangladesh, which is overwhelmingly Muslim.
The government's cultural affairs adviser, Ayub Quadri, told the BBC he was thinking of resigning over the issue.
"Ultimately we at the ministry have to take responsibility," he said.
Mr Quadri said the government had stepped up security measures on the border with India, after reports the stolen objects could be smuggled out of the country.
The government's decision to send the relics to France had sparked some protests from historians and archaeologists in Bangladesh.