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Latest update : 2008-12-08

Hundreds of tombstones marking the graves of Muslim soldiers who died for France during the bloody battles of World War One have been daubed with fascist symbols. The attack comes on the biggest feast day in the Muslim calendar.

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

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 spray-painted with neo-Nazi slogans such as "Heil Hitler", police said.

The graveyard was cordoned off and reporters were unable to see the inscriptions.

A police source said that of the 575 Muslim gravestones at the site, 500 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.

Date created : 2008-12-08