A chrome-plated, fully automatic rifle that was once part of deceased Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein's personal arsenal has been turned over by the U.S. military to customs officials who say they will eventually repatriate the item back to Iraq.
“We praise the U.S. Army for its full cooperation for turning this cultural artifact over to ICE,” said Peter J. Smith, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in New York. “We can now work to comply with the Iraqi government’s wishes and desire to take back a priceless symbol of Iraqi history.”
Earlier this year, the Iraqi government had asked the New York office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement for help finding the AK-47 rifle. The gun was eventually located at Fort Lewis in Washington state.
The gun had been brought to the United States as a war trophy collected by the military to be placed in a museum, customs officials said. The transport was legal, the Army said.
The rare chrome rifle, which has a pearl handle grip and a small photograph of Saddam Hussein near the front sight, is a highly prized souvenir in the Middle East. It's believed that Saddam gave similar weapons as gifts to his cronies.
Customs officials said the U.S. military cooperated fully in turning over the rifle, which will remain in ICE custody until arrangements can be made to repatriate it to Iraq.