( dpa ) - The Iraqi authorities have arrested a gang that was planning to smuggle hundreds of valuable historical items looted from a Shiite Muslim shrine destroyed in bombings blamed on Sunni extremists, media reports said Friday.
Hundreds of valuable artefacts, including swords, shields, jewels and antique copies of the Koran, were seized during a security raid in which members of the gang were captured, according to al-Arabya TV.
The Dubai-based news broadcaster aired a video showing the valuable items, which the authorities said were stolen from the Shiite shrine in Samara, 118 kilometres north of Baghdad.
Bombings, which are believed to have been launched by Sunni insurgents with links to the al-Qaeda terrorist network in February 2006 and June 2007, led to the destruction of the revered golden- domed shrine.
The attacks proved a watershed, engulfing the country in a wave of sectarian killing.
Mahmud al-Dahwi, an alleged plotter of last year's bombings, which toppled the twin minarets of the shrine, was arrested, state-owned al-Iraqya TV reported Thursday quoting a security official.
General Rashid Filih, the commander of operations in Samarra, told al-Iraqya that al-Dahwi was "the mastermind" of the twin minarets' bombings.
The shrine of the Shiite imams, al-Hadi and al-Askari, was built in the 10th and 11th centuries.