PARIS - Vandals have desecrated the graves of seven Muslim soldiers who died fighting for France in World War II, the defence minister announced, expressing "deep indignation."
"I wish to express my deep indignation at this ignoble and cowardly act," Herve Morin said in a statement Thursday after the tombstones were toppled at a military cemetery in the southern city of Tarascon.
"I bow before the memory of these soldiers with more emotion now that the ultimate outrage appears to have targeted them for their religious beliefs," he said.
Morin said the soldiers had given their lives for a "free, just and generous" Europe and France.
The regional Muslim council said the tombstones had been toppled and three of them were smashed. There are 130 graves in the cemetery, of which 17 belong to Muslim soldiers.
France is home to Europe's biggest Muslim minority, estimated at between five and six million.
Islamophobic attacks are not uncommon in France.
On April 2008, four youths have been arrested in connection with the desecration of 148 Muslim graves at France's biggest war cemetery.
They are believed to be linked to a group of neo-Nazis who scrawled swastikas on 52 Muslim graves in the same cemetery in April 2007.