The Libyan government apologized after amateur video surfaced today showing Libyans vandalizing 200 Second World War gravestones of British and Italian soldiers.
The video was first seen on Facebook and is now available on YouTube. It shows what are believed to be 30 hardline Islamists kicking over headstones and hammering at a cenotaph.
“The (National Transitional Council) apologizes for the incident with the foreign graves, especially the British and Italian graves," an NTC statement said, according to Al Jazeera. “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.”
The vandalism happened at Benghazi’s Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery. The Benghazi military cemetery was also attacked, BBC said.
The men can be heard saying, “Break the cross of the dogs,” as others kick over and uproot headstones.
“It’s horrific and wrong and we have expressed to the Libyan authorities our profound distress at what has happened on behalf of those who have loved ones there," Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt told the BBC. “The Libyan authorities have responded in kind. They are horrified by what has happened.
“These are not actions carried out by the government of Libya, this is an extremist mob that has done this and we all share the same revulsion for it.”
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Al Jazeera said that since Libyans overthrew dictator Muammar Gaddafi, heavily armed militias have surfaced.
Called Salafists, some are opposed to any non-Muslim interference in Libya and have attacked Muslim holy tombs they call idolatrous, Al Jazeera reported.
The cemeteries contain more than western 1,200 gravesites, The Guardian said.
While the majority is British, Australian, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and India have also buried troops there.
Of the English troops, many fought with the 7th Armoured Division – the Desert Rats – that battled Nazi Germany in Libya and Egypt.
No group has claimed responsibility, and other Libyan militias have expressed anger towards the vandals.
“We don't support this action,” a Misrata militiaman, Farouk Ben Ahmeda, told The Guardian. "This is a sin. These guys are messing up the revolution."
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