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This chrome-plated Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifle, with a pearl hand grip and receiver, was manufactured by an Iraqi weapons factory which produced personalized assault rifles for Saddam Hussein’s family and friends. Bearing a tiny image of the dictator near the sighting mechanism, it was looted after the 2003 invasion and has been returned to Iraq along with hundreds of other items, as Steven Lee Myers reports.

It was put on display at the headquarters of Iraq’s Foreign Ministry in Baghdad on Monday in a ceremony attended by American and Iraqi officials, who gave details of hundreds of artifacts – the vast majority from ancient rulers of Mesopotamia – that had been recovered after being looted before, during and after the American-led invasion.

A booklet distributed at the ceremony said of the AK-47: “Customs agents located the AK-47 at the headquarters of the U.S. Army 3rd Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, at Fort Lewis in Washington State. Brought back as a war trophy by a U.S. Army soldier who had served in Iraq, the rifle was seized by the ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) in cooperation with the U.S. Army at the behest of the Iraqi government.”

It added: “During the reign of Saddam Hussein, Iraq had a weapons factory which produced its own version of the Kalashnikov assault rifle. Gold-plated models were produced and often given as gifts among Saddam’s family and friends, especially those in the Baath Party.”

Source: Stephen Farrell for The New York Times.

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This chrome-plated Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifle, with a pearl hand grip and receiver, was manufactured…