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World War II graves smashed in Libya

Written By Koka Albert on Sunday, March 4, 2012 | 10:45 PM

Libyan government apologises after armed men vandalise graves of British, Commonwealth and Italian soldiers in Benghazi.

Libya's leadership has apologised after armed men smashed the graves of British and Italian soldiers killed during World War II.
Amateur video footage of the attack, posted on social networking site Facebook, showed men casually kicking over headstones in a war cemetery and using sledgehammers to smash a metal and stone cross.
One man can be heard saying: "This is a grave of a Christian," as he uprooted a stone headstone from the ground.
Another voice in the footage says of the people buried in the cemetery: "These are dogs".
The attack happened in the eastern city of Benghazi, near where British and Commonwealth troops fought heavy battles against German and Italian forces during the 1939-45 war.

Australia 'disgusted'
The National Transitional Council (NTC), Libya's interim leadership since last year's uprising forced out Muammar Gaddafi, said it would pursue those responsible.

"The government is appalled and disgusted by these reports, and condemns without reservation this act of desecration"
- Spokesperson for Australian PM

"The NTC apologises for the incident with the foreign graves, especially the British and Italian graves," the council said in a statement. "This action is not in keeping with Islam."
"The NTC will confront this matter and, in line with Libyan law, will pursue those people who committed this act. This action does not reflect Libyan public opinion because Islam calls for respect for other religions."
Some 1,214 Commonwealth troops who died in the North African desert battles of World War II are buried at the Benghazi War Cemetery, where around 200 headstones were damaged.
Of the 1,051 identified graves, 851 are those of British troops, with others belonging to Australian, Canadian, New Zealand, South African and Indian servicemen.

Australia on Monday said it was "appalled and disgusted" by the desecration of Commonwealth war graves and was  working to determine whether its own soldiers' headstones had been affected.

"The government is appalled and disgusted by these reports, and condemns without reservation this act of desecration," a spokesperson for the Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard told the AFP news agency.

"Should the reports prove accurate, we call on the Libyan interim government to investigate and hold to account those responsible."
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