Sarkozy condemns desecration of Muslim graves

French President Nicolas Sarkozy expressed "profound outrage" at a "sordid" attack on Muslim graves Saturday night in France's biggest war cemetery. He vowed that the attackers would be punished. (Report: France 2)


Vandals desecrated 148 Muslim graves in France's biggest war cemetery, hanging a pig's head from one tombstone and daubing slogans insulting France's Muslim justice minister, officials said.

President Nicolas Sarkozy expressed "profound outrage" at the "sordid" attack on the Muslim quarter of the Notre Dame de Lorette cemetery, near the northern town of Arras on Saturday night. He vowed those responsible would be punished.

Notre Dame de Lorette cemetery is France's biggest military necropolis and commemorates tens of thousands of victims of a series of long and bloody battles for control of northern France at the start of World War I.

The attack came almost exactly a year after a similar incident in which neo-Nazi vandals scrawled swastikas on 52 of the cemetery's Muslim graves.

"This is the most inadmissible kind of racism and the president of the republic shares the pain of France's entire Muslim community," Europe's largest at around five million, said a statement issued by the presidency after the latest attack.

"This hateful act is also a attack on the memory of all veterans of World War I, beyond the faith of each one," it said.

The state prosecutor for Arras, Jean-Pierre Valensi, said "the slogans directly target Islam and they gravely insult Rachida Dati, the justice minister," who is the daughter of north African immigrants.

He said a pig's head was hung from one of the graves in the attack.

Around 100 French gendarmes were at the site to gather evidence. Jean-Marie Bocket, the secretary of state for veteran's affairs, said the government would review security at Notre-Dame-de-Lorette.

"This is horrific, and for the 90th anniversary of the end of the 1914-1918 war. This is worse than the last time," said Jean-Paul Doue, an honorary guard at the cemetery.

The Elysee said Sarkozy had called for a swift inquiry and "for those responsible for this act to be punished as they deserve."

Two youths aged 18 and 21 were sentenced to a year in jail over last April's attack on the cemetery. A 16-year-old youth received a six-week jail sentence.

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