Grave vandals 'need to be educated'
Campaigners have offered to educate vandals who desecrated more than a dozen graves in Northern Ireland of fallen soldiers from the two world wars.
One of the headstones in Belfast's City Cemetery was "smashed to bits" while 13 others were also targeted in an orgy of vandalism over the past week, according to investigators.
A Cross of Sacrifice war memorial at the burial grounds at Falls Road in the west of the city has also been extensively covered in graffiti.
Some headstones were loosened while e xpletives and anti-police slogans were daubed on the cross.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission, which cares for war dead graves and memorials around the world, said it was angered and deeply distressed by the rare act of vandalism.
But spokesman Peter Francis said they would like to educate those behind the destruction that the fallen soldiers were from their own communities.
"We are deeply distressed to learn about these acts of vandalism," he said.
"We are now working with our members on the ground to repair graves and clean the memorial.
"We would like to reassure the public that we will restore the graves and the memorial to a standard that is fitting for the sacrifice of those involved."
Mr Francis said there was a mixture of anger and deep upset over the vandalism.
" We would like to educate those behind the attacks that these are graves of soldiers predominantly from their own community and they deserve to be remembered," he added.
Police said they are treating the attacks as criminal damage.
It is believed vandals targeted the graves between last Tuesday, April 15, and today. The damage was restricted to a section of the cemetery for the war dead from both the First World War and the Second World War.
"Police are appealing to anyone who has noticed any suspicious activity in the cemetery over the past week to contact them in Woodbourne on the new non-emergency number 101," said a Police Service spokesman.
"Information can also be passed anonymously through the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111."