Fury over attack on British war graves in Benghazi
Published: 4th Mar 2012 12:45:52
Attacks on the graves of British servicemen in Benghazi, Libya, have been described as "appalling" by Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne.
The Foreign Office said 200 graves and a Cross of Remembrance were damaged at the Benghazi British Military Cemetery.
The Benghazi War Cemetery was also targeted. Both cemeteries commemorate British and Commonwealth nationals who died during or after World War II.
The Libyan authorities apologised and pledged to catch those responsible.
The damage was "unethical, irresponsible and criminal", the ruling National Transitional Council said.
Liberal Democrat minister Mr Browne condemned the attacks but said he did not believe that only British or Christian graves had been targeted.
Both cemeteries will be restored to a standard befitting the sacrifice of those commemorated at Benghazi”
"My grandfather's generation were truly heroic in that part of Africa in the Second World War and I think people will be shocked by what they see," he told the Sky News Murnaghan programme.
"It is worth saying the Libyan authorities themselves are shocked too.
"They have been extremely apologetic and made a very strong commitment they will get to the bottom of this. They will try and do everything they can to resolve it."
He added: "I would not want people to think this is somehow an ingratitude by the government of Libya. That's not the case."
Video footage made by the attackers showed about a dozen armed men kicking down headstones and trying to damage a cross.
The BBC's Gabriel Gatehouse, in Tripoli, said the attackers referred to "Christian dogs" and a Jewish memorial was also targeted.
Our correspondent said the attack was "calm, almost casual".
It is believed the attack could have been carried out in retaliation for the burning of the Koran by US soldiers at a military base in Afghanistan last month.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: "On 24 and 26 February over 200 headstones and the Cross of Remembrance in the Commonwealth War Graves Benghazi British Military Cemetery were deliberately damaged, as were approximately a quarter of the headstones in the Benghazi War Cemetery."
The Benghazi War Cemetery, which was vandalised first and where the footage was taken, contains the remains of servicemen killed during the Second World War.
The Military Cemetery was used for the military personnel and their dependants stationed in Libya following the war.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) said on its website that headstones were "broken and disfigured" at both cemeteries, which are roughly a mile apart.
A spokesman said the organisation was "deeply saddened" by the incident.
The BBC understands that at some point during the attack on the British Military Cemetery a group of older people intervened to stop it, preventing further damage.
The CWCG said it would conduct a full survey of the damage at both cemeteries once it was safe to do so.
"Both cemeteries will be restored to a standard befitting the sacrifice of those commemorated at Benghazi, but this could take some time because we will need to source replacement stones," the CWCG said.
"In the meantime we will ensure that temporary markers are erected over the graves."
No-one was injured in the attack, it said.
It is understood a separate attack was carried out on the Italian War Graves Cemetery, also in the eastern city of Benghazi.
The Foreign Office said officials from its Embassy in Tripoli had visited the cemeteries and raised the issue with the Libyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Benghazi chief of police.
Concerns were also raised with NTC chairman Abdul Jalil and interim Prime Minister Abdurrahim al-Keib, it said.
In response, the NTC said in a statement on its website: "Some people attacked the graves of non-Muslims in Benghazi, including the graves of some of the nationals of friendly countries, including the states of Britain and Italy."
It adds that it "severely denounces such shameful acts and vows to find and prosecute the perpetrators according to Libyan Law".
The Foreign Office said Libyan authorities had instructed police to make regular patrols to halt any further attacks.
In June last year Foreign Secretary William Hague laid a wreath at Commonwealth war graves on a trip to Benghazi.
BBC Southern Africa correspondent Karen Allen said that up until now Commonwealth war graves had been respected in Libya, and it was sad to see attacks in Benghazi.
In November last year our correspondent reported that Tripoli War Cemetery, one of five Commonwealth war cemeteries dotted across Libya, was left untouched during the uprising.
The CWGC held services at its cemeteries in Tripoli, Benghazi and Tobruk to mark the 93rd Armistice Day last year.
There are 1,214 Commonwealth servicemen of the Second World War buried or commemorated at the Benghazi War Cemetery. Of the 1,051 identified graves, 851 are British.
Many were members of the 7th Armoured Division, known as the Desert Rats, who fought for control of Libya and Egypt between 1941 and 1943.
The Benghazi British Military Cemetery has 284 burials, 11 of them unidentified. The graves are of servicemen and women who died in the region in the years following the Second War.
At 23:52:55 in SportIan Poulter insists his mind is not on the Ryder Cup after shooting a promising 67 in the opening round of the Deutsche Bank Championship.
At 23:32:27 in WorldPakistan needs and deserves better leaders - but it also needs stability and an end to games played by politicians and generals, argues guest columnist Ahmed Rashid.
At 23:14:57 in HeadlinesRescue workers in Nicaragua are trying to reach at least 24 workers trapped by a cave-in at a gold mine in a remote region in the north of the country.
At 23:14:27 in SportAndy Murray will return to the Louis Armstrong Stadium for Saturday's third-round match against Andrey Kuznetsov at the US Open.
At 23:01:35 in HeadlinesThe International Monetary Fund (IMF) has expressed confidence in its leader Christine Lagarde, despite her being investigated for negligence in France.
At 22:58:57 in EnglandGeorge Galloway has been left badly bruised after he was attacked on a street in London, his spokesman has said.
At 22:50:18 in SportManchester United manager Louis van Gaal wants England boss Roy Hodgson to clarify comments made about Luke Shaw.
At 22:42:36 in SportAlgerian international Saphir Taider is set to complete a loan move away from Southampton before kicking a ball for the club.
At 22:39:54 in SportWarwickshire will play Kent at Edgbaston in the semi-finals of the One-Day Cup as they continue their quest for the treble.
At 22:17:59 in HeadlinesA former US navy sailor who led a spy ring for the Soviet Union has died in a prison medical centre at the age of 77.
Harvard CitationBBC News, 2012. Fury over attack on British war graves in Benghazi [Online] (Updated 4th Mar 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1415479/Fury-over-attack-on-British-war-graves-in-Benghazi [Accessed 30th Aug 2014]
News In Other Categories
Pakistan needs and deserves better leaders - but it also needs stability and an end to games played by politicians and generals, argues guest columnist Ahmed Rashid.
Two women have been taken to hospital after being hit by a car at a bus stop in Glasgow.
With the doors to its brand new £1million training centre officially open, one of the UK's leading apprentice training providers, Bristol based S&B Automotive Academy, is showcasing its world-class facilities by launching a series of foreign student exchanges for the first time in its 41-year history. To get a flavour of what life is like as an apprentice in the UK, the Academy hosted 16 apprentice engineers and bus drivers from the G9 Automotive College in Hamburg, Germany, as part of a Europe-wide vocational training initiative called the ‘Leonardo Programme’ with support from the European Social Fund. In a reciprocal arrangement, S&B will be sending nine apprentices to Germany during February 2012 so that they can get an appreciation of life in the automotive industry on the Continent. A further three German exchange groups are being planned for next year. Designed to assist the development of vocational skills and training across Europe, including work placements for trainees, the Leonardo Programme has a budget of €1.75bn, which is helping to encourage UK organisations to work with their counterparts abroad. In what is expected to be another challenging year for employers in the UK automotive sector, S&B’s Chief Executive, Jon Winter, claims that the exchange initiative will bring many benefits to the Academy and its apprentices: “In a world of global automotive brands, it’s important for our learners to understand the international context of the industry they have chosen to make their career. This new exchange programme will enable apprentices and Academy staff alike to achieve a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the automotive arena in Europe. With the Academy’s influence also extending to the USA and Asia, there’s every possibility that this initiative could move further afield in the future.” Continued Winter: “The need for skilled technicians across the world is on the increase and we actively encourage our apprentices to look at broader horizons during their training. Many of them have already learned the phrase ‘Vorsprung durch Gelehrtheit’, quite simply, ‘Advancement through learning.” In the 2010/11 academic year, S&B doubled the number of successful Apprenticeships over the previous year with some 350 apprentices graduating from the Academy. At the same time, achievement levels reached an all-time high with an overall success rate of 85%. For those learners on the Advanced Apprenticeship three-year programme, success rates were even higher, at over 98%. PHOTO CAPTION: As part of their exchange visit, S&B Automotive Academy arranged for the German apprentices to visit Hampshire bus operator, Bluestar, at its Barton Park depot. The students are pictured with S&B’s Andy West (3rd right) and Steve Prewett, Bluestar’s Area Engineering Manager (2nd right). Ends http://www.sandbaa.com
The condition of a Swansea ambulance station has been criticised by a patient watchdog after an inspection.
George Galloway has been left badly bruised after he was attacked on a street in London, his spokesman has said.
Microsoft's Windows Live Messenger will be switched off in China in October, marking a final end to the 15-year-old service.