British graves desecrated in Libya
The Libyan government has been "extremely apologetic" about the desecration of British war graves in the eastern city of Benghazi, a Foreign Office Minister said.
Speaking on the Sky News Murnaghan programme, Jeremy Browne said people would be understandably upset by images of damaged graves in Sunday's papers, including the Mail on Sunday.
But he said the attacks were not aimed particularly at Britain or Christians, and did not represent a Libyan response to last year's military action when British aircraft took part in a campaign which toppled Colonel Gadaffi from his role as dictator in the North African country.
Mr Browne told the programme: "There is an appalling story and people will be shocked by the photos. My grandfather's generation were truly heroic in that part of Africa in the Second World War and I think people will be shocked by what they see.
"It is worth saying the Libyan authorities themselves are shocked too. We have had direct dealings with them. They have been extremely apologetic and made a very strong commitment they will get to the bottom of this happening. They will try and do everything they can to resolve it.
"My understanding it is not just British graves or just Christian graves that have been desecrated, there is wider desecration taking place. The Libyan authorities are keen to work with us on this. I would not want people to think this is somehow an ingratitude by the government of Libya. That's not the case."
More than 1,200 Commonwealth soldiers and airmen are buried in the eastern city of Benghazi. Of the 1,051 identified graves, 851 are British. Many were members of the 7th Armoured Division, known as the Desert Rats, which played a key role in fighting for control of Libya and Egypt between 1941 and 1943.
Reports in the Mail on Sunday said the attacks on graves took place over two days last week. A video was recorded by one of the men involved and posted online, the paper said.
Mustafa Abdul Jalil, head of state in Libya's caretaker government, told the paper the attacks were "unethical, irresponsible and criminal", adding: "(The Libyan government) severely denounces such shameful acts and vows to find and prosecute the perpetrators."
A Commonwealth War Graves Commission spokesman told the Mail on Sunday that the graves would be restored "to a standard befitting the sacrifice of those commemorated at Benghazi". He added: "This could take some time because we will need to source replacement stones."