Libya sorry for desecration of WWII graves: UK

Last Updated: Sunday, March 4, 2012 - 23:00

London: Libyan authorities have been "extremely apologetic" over the desecration of Commonwealth graves in the eastern city of Benghazi, a British Foreign Office minister said Sunday.

Jeremy Browne said the incidents were "appalling" and people would be "shocked" by the footage of the February 24 and 26 attacks.

"The Libyan authorities themselves are shocked too," he told Sky News television.

"We have had direct dealings with them. They have been extremely apologetic and made a very strong commitment they will get to the bottom of this happening. They will try and do everything they can to resolve it.

Video footage shows a mob smashing up headstones and a cross of sacrifice, saying "they are dogs".

Local reports said the group comprised Salafists angered by the burning of the Quran at a NATO military base in Afghanistan last month.

The Libyan transitional government on Tuesday condemned the attacks and vowed to find the perpetrators.

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.

Around a quarter of the headstones in the nearby Benghazi
British Military Cemetery, which does not contain World War
graves, were also damaged.

"My understanding it is not just British graves or just
Christian graves that have been desecrated, there is wider
desecration taking place. The Libyan authorities are keen to
work with us on this," the minister said.

The British and French air forces last year aided
Benghazi-based rebels to oust dictator Muammar Gaddafi from
power after his tanks encircled the city.

A Foreign Office spokesman said that Britain`s
ambassador in Tripoli has spoken to Transitional Council chief
Mustafa Abdel Jalil and Libyan Prime Minister Abdel Rahim
al-Kib about the attacks.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission, which maintains
the cemeteries, said it would restore them.

PTI



First Published: Sunday, March 4, 2012 - 23:00

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