Youths on motorbikes have vandalized 73 German grave memorials in a World War I cemetery in France. However, police say the damage was not motivated by any anti-German feeling.
Thousands of fallen soldiers lie in northern France
A World War I cemetery for German soldiers in northeastern France has been desecrated by vandals, local police said on Sunday.
Drunken youths broke and uprooted 72 grave crosses and damaged one Jewish stele at the cemetery in Laon, in the Picardy region.
Two young men, aged 18 and 19 and already known to police, were arrested. Eyewitnesses reported that there were four culprits in total, who had damaged graves by hurtling around the graveyard on motorbikes.
"There is no xenophobic aspect to these deeds, only acts of alcoholism," the regional police authority said. "These desecrations do not appear to be anti-German in nature."
Around 3,500 people are buried at the Champ-de-Manoeuvre cemetery, many of whom are German soldiers who fell in battle between 1914 and 1918, or were patients at the nearby German military hospitals which remained in operation until 1920.
Laon was a seat of army high command and a strategic outpost for German forces during World War I.
Author: Thomas Sheldrick (AFP/dpa)
Editor: Rob Turner