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Egypt says UNESCO to help museum with restoration after bombing

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CAIRO - A UNESCO team will travel to Cairo to assess the damage inflicted on a renowned Islamic art museum by a bombing targeting the nearby security headquarters, Egypt's Minister of Antiquities said Sunday.

The museum will also receive $100,000 from the U.N. cultural agency to help the museum recover from the explosion, which damaged much of the museum's artifacts, Mohammed Ibrahim said.

The truck bombing on Friday was one of four attacks across the capital targeting police that killed six people. The huge blast shattered the facade of the security headquarters, while propelling steel and ceiling plaster onto artifacts in the museum across the street.

Centuries-old glass and porcelain pieces were smashed to powder, a priceless wooden prayer niche was destroyed and manuscripts were soaked by water spewing from broken pipes.

Though a complete account of damaged artifacts has not yet been taken, Ibrahim said, the damages would mean serious losses for Egyptian and Islamic history.

UNESCO spokeswoman Sue Williams confirmed that a mission is being planned and that emergency funds of $100,000 have been set aside.

Inside the museum, glass from broken display cases and splintered woodwork littered the vast halls. A ministry worker wearing a white coat and rubber gloves picked through rubble, collecting broken pieces.

Construction workers tried to remove steel rebar and splintered wood from felled structures. A wooden prayer niche was nearly broken in half.

Built in 1881, the Cairo Museum of Islamic Art is home to the world's richest collection of artifacts from all periods of Islamic history. It houses nearly 100,000 pieces representing different Islamic eras, 4,000 of them on display and the rest in storage.

According to its official website, the museum houses works from the seventh-century pre-Islamic era to the end of the 19th century, including carpets, coins, ceramics, jewelry, manuscripts, marble carvings and woodwork. A water fountain made of colored mosaic is among the most impressive pieces on display and dates back to the 13th-16th century Mamluk era.

A recently completed $14.4 million renovation included 25 exhibition halls, as well as state-of-the-art security and lighting systems, a fully-equipped restoration laboratory, a children's museum and a library, much of which was gutted by the blast.

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Associated Press Correspondent Greg Keller contributed from Paris

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