PARIS - The UN education, science and culture agency, UNESCO, on Friday raised an alarm over reports that Sudan’s warring militaries are fighting in the vicinity of the ancient Nubian pyramids of Meroe – a protected World Heritage Site.

In a press release issued on Friday, UNESCO expressed deep concern over the safety of the site, raising fears that some of the priceless artifacts from the Kingdom of Kush, dating back to the eighth century B.C., could be looted and trafficked.

“This World Heritage Site, inscribed in 2011, consists of the royal city of the Kushite kings at Meroe, near the River Nile, the nearby religious site of Naqa and the temple complex Musawwarat es Sufra,” UNESCO said.

The agency said that following reports indicating clashes between Government troops and their rival SDF militia near the site, some 250 km north of the capital Khartoum, all parties must fully respect international law.

The 1954 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict stipulates that cultural property must neither be targeted nor used for military purposes.

Following closely

UNESCO said officials were “following the evolving situation very closely”, especially given the high risk of looting and illicit trafficking due to reduced security around the royal necropolis and other sites.

The agency called for vigilance on the part of law enforcement and for "art market actors and all cultural professionals to refrain from acquiring or taking part in the import, export or transfer of ownership of cultural property when they have reasonable cause to believe that the objects have been stolen, illegally alienated, clandestinely excavated or illegally exported from Sudan”.

Since April last year, when the brutal civil war erupted around Khartoum, UNESCO has mobilized to support the culture, education, science and information sectors in Sudan.

In addition to invoking international law, the agency has implemented a series of emergency measures in the country and beyond. More information here.