08/05/2012 01:29 EDT | Updated 10/05/2012 05:12 EDT

Ancient artifacts returned to Afghanistan

Hundreds of artifacts looted from Afghanistan have been returned to the country’s National Museum, including objects dating back 4,000 years.

Many of the 843 items were stolen during the country’s civil war in the 1990s and sold on the black market. Some were recovered by British border police, others were discovered in private collections and still more were bought back by generous donors.

London’s British Museum assisted in the returns and the British Ministry of Defence used its planes to bring the items back to Afghanistan.

Among the treasures are a series of decorative inlays dating back to the first century AD, the British Museum said.

One statue of Buddha dates back to the second or third century. As well, there are medieval Islamic coins and a stone water spout in the shape of a lion’s head that’s 2,300-years-old.

In fact, the Buddha ended up in the hands of a Japanese collector, who refused to return it and could not be compelled legally to do so. An anonymous British dealer bought it and gave it back to the museum.

"It's very important for us to get these [artifacts] back, because they are part of our cultural heritage and history, that was looted during three decades of war," said Afghanistan's Deputy Culture Minister Sayed Masaddeq Khalili to The Guardian newspaper.

Khalili said that approximately 9,000 looted artifacts have been returned from different countries since 2001.

The National Museum in Kabul was rebuilt with international aid after it was mostly destroyed when rival warlords battled in the capital in a brutal struggle for power in the early 1990s.