Last updated: 29 december, 2010 - 18:20 GMT

Sotheby's cancel the sale of a masterpiece African mask after complaints that it was stolen

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A leading British auction house has decided not to sell a precious African mask after complaints that it had been stolen.

According to historians, the mask was looted from the Benin empire by a British soldier in 1897.

There were many protests against the sale, including some from the Nigerian state government of Edo, which contains the modern city of Benin.

It was expected to fetch nearly $7m (£4.5m) at a Sotheby's auction in London.

BBC Focus on Africa's Peter Ndoro asked the cultural historian Augustus Casley-Hayford why the mask had provoked so much controversy.

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