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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 July, 2003, 15:34 GMT 16:34 UK
British war graves vandalised
The police have not established any leads in their hunt for the vandals
Vandals have damaged the graves of British and Commonwealth soldiers at a World War I cemetery in northern France.

Gravestones of British, Canadian and New Zealand soldiers were found to have been kicked over at the St Aubert cemetery, near Cambrai, on Monday.

Authorities in France said they believed the destruction was motiveless.

Peter Francis, spokesman for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, said: "It looks like a completely mindless act of vandalism."

This is an inexcusable attack on the memory of British, Canadian and New Zealand soldiers who should rest in peace on our soil
Hamlaoui Mekachera,
French Minister for War Veterans
A St Aubert police spokesman said: "We do not believe the vandals were motivated by any religious, racial or nationalistic feeling.

"It could have been done by a single person or a group. An investigation has been launched but we do not have any leads as yet."

The vandals also burned the visitors book at the entrance to the cemetery.

The St Aubert cemetery contains the graves of 435 Commonwealth soldiers killed in battle between 1917 and 1918.

The French Minister for War Veterans, Hamlaoui Mekachera, said: "This is an inexcusable attack on the memory of British, Canadian and New Zealand soldiers who fought in France in the First World War and should rest in peace on our soil."

Mr Mekachera said he hoped the police investigation "would swiftly identify the culprits, so they can answer for their acts".

In April, the graves of British soldiers in the Etaples cemetery in northern France were defaced with swastikas and slogans denouncing the war in Iraq, prompting President Jacques Chirac to send a letter of apology to the UK.



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