Biggest haul of looted church icons back in Cyprus

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — The largest haul of looted church icons, frescoes and mosaics ever repatriated to Cyprus has been officially welcomed after a nearly four-decade journey.

A ceremony on Tuesday marked the return of 173 items stolen from Orthodox and Maronite Christian churches in the Turkish Cypriot northern part Cyprus. The island was ethnically split in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters of union with Greece.

Ioannis Eliades, director of the Byzantine Museum, said no monetary value can be put on the items including fragments of a 1,500-year-old mosaic and 1,100 year-old frescoes — the oldest of their kind in Cyprus which traces its roots in Christianity to the 1st century.

A 1997 police raid uncovered the religious treasures in a Turkish art dealer's apartment in Munich, Germany.

©2016 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.