KLAIPEDA, Lithuania (AP) _ German treasure hunters have begun combing a lithuanian beach area in Lithuania for czarist treasure, allegedly buried there by the Nazis, the Baltic News Service reported Monday.

The beachcombers believe the cache includes panels from Czar Peter the Great's famed Amber Room, an ornate hall whose walls were made from the expensive golden brown amber.

The fate of the Amber Room, a gift to the czar from Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm I, has long been a mystery and a source of speculation.

The Nazis took the panels from Leningrad in 1941, and the German government claims they were destroyed during the 1945 Soviet invasion of nearby Konigsberg now Kaliningrad, Russia. But Moscow has long insisted that the Nazis hid the treasure.

The new search is focused in the dunes of the Neringa peninsula, a wind-swept sliver of land that runs parallel to Lithuania's Baltic Sea coast for more than 60 miles.

The German team is following leads by a former resident of the area who says he saw Nazi officers carry the boxes off a warship in 1944 and then bury them along the shore, BNS said.

The report did not name the resident or members of the German team.