The Egyptian army secured Cairo's famed antiquities museum early today, protecting thousands of priceless artifacts, including the gold mask of King Tutankhamun, from looters.
The greatest threat to the Egyptian Museum, which draws millions of tourists a year, first appeared to come from the fire engulfing the ruling party headquarters next door, set ablaze by anti-government protesters.
Then dozens of would-be thieves started entering the grounds surrounding the museum, climbing over the metal fence or jumping inside from trees lining the sidewalk outside.
One man pleaded with people outside the museum's gates on Tahrir Square not to loot the building, shouting at the crowd: "We are not like Baghdad." After the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, thieves carted off thousands of artifacts from the National Museum in Baghdad -- only a fraction of which have been recovered.