Muslim war veteran graves hit by vandals

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The Independent Online

Hundreds of tombstones in the Muslim part of a French military cemetery were found sprayed with Nazi symbols yesterday, the day of Islam's biggest feast, in the third such attack on the site in less than two years.

Around 15 Jewish tombstones located alongside the Muslim ones were also targeted.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy condemned the attack in the Notre-Dame de Lorette military cemetery near the northern town of Arras and the battlefields of World War One, calling for the perpetrators to be brought to justice quickly.

"This abject and revolting act, which follows that of last April, is the expression of repugnant racism aimed at France's Muslim community," Sarkozy's office said in a statement.

The neatly aligned white headstones, marking the graves of Muslim soldiers who died fighting for France, were sprayed in black paint with neo-Nazi slogans, police said.

A veteran visiting the cemetery discovered the writing which included the words "Heil Hitler" and Nazi swastikas.

A police source said that 500 of less than 600 tombs at the site had been vandalised.

Monday is the Muslim feast of Eid al-Adha, commemorating the willingness of biblical patriarch Abraham to sacrifice his son for God.

Hundreds of thousands of Muslim soldiers from France's African colonies fought during World War One and tens of thousands were killed. France is now home to Europe's biggest Muslim community.