Thieves have made off with three priceless carpets from an ancient mosque in Afghanistan (search).

Police say the carpets, each about 30 feet long and richly woven in a deep red color, were spirited away in the middle of the night Monday. The thieves replaced them with cheap imitations.

The carpets were made in the early 1900s for the mosque, which is believed to be one of the oldest in Afghanistan. It is a popular attraction for Afghan travelers and even draws some foreigners.

Investigators believe more than one person was involved because the carpets were too big for one man to carry. Area carpet and antiques dealers have been alerted.

Looting of Afghan antiquities has been a growing problem, and many items are believed to have been smuggled abroad.