anews1.gif (4259 bytes)  BACK TO COVER PAGE

Medieval Koran Stolen in Turkey

ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP) - Thieves have stolen a handwritten 15th century Koran from Topkapi Palace, the former home of the Ottoman sultans that is now one of Turkey's most visited museums.

It is not clear how the Islamic holy book, which was stolen overnight, was removed from its sealed case.

Police discovered the fingerprints of three people in the display room where the Koran was kept, the Anatolia news agency reported Thursday. A number of old Turkish miniature paintings and calligraphs were also on display in the room, but were not taken.

Private NTV television said police suspected the theft may have been an insider job and were questioning museum officials.

The palace - the residence of Ottoman Sultans for three centuries - houses an imperial treasury room that includes rubies, emeralds and one of the world's largest diamonds.

Thefts of religious antiquities, including Koranic manuscripts from mosques, is common in Turkey, but this is the first time that one was stolen from the palace.

In June, thieves stole a sacred relic - a beard hair - of the Prophet Mohammed from a 16th century mosque in Istanbul. They later returned the relic and have not been caught.