Falkland Islands police investigate vandalism at war cemetery

Statue of Argentina’s patron saint damaged at cemetery where 237 Argentinian soldiers are buried

Falklands Islands police are investigating an act of vandalism at a cemetery for Argentinian soldiers.

A statue of the Virgin of Luján, the patron saint of Argentina, was damaged at the cemetery in Darwin, where 237 Argentinian soldiers killed in the 1982 Falklands war are buried.

The Argentinian foreign ministry wrote to the British government on Tuesday condemning the vandalism and calling for an immediate investigation.

It said the vandalism was “particularly regrettable” in light of a project by the British and Argentinian governments with the Red Cross to use DNA evidence to identify the remains of 123 soldiers buried at the site. The work is set to begin in June.

The foreign ministry wrote: “This significant advance in such a sensitive humanitarian issue is not consistent with the intolerance and violence demonstrated by those who attacked the resting place of the Argentine fighters fallen in 1982.”

The Falkland Islands government confirmed that the statue and its case had been damaged, and said: “This sort of damage is clearly distressing to the families and regretted by the people of the Falkland Islands.”

Barry Elsby, chair of the legislative assembly, said: “The glass has been broken and the head of the statue damaged. The Royal Falkland Islands police are investigating the damage and collecting evidence from the scene. At this time we are unable to say how the statue was damaged.”

He said the chief of police would visit the cemetery on Wednesday. “The Falkland Islands government and people have always been content to see British and Argentine veterans and their families visit the islands and we very much regret the damage to the statue,” he added.

The statue’s case was previously damaged in 2012, although on that occasion the statue was not harmed, Elsby said.

Britain’s former foreign minister Alan Duncan said he was appalled by the latest incident.

@CancilleriaARG Appalled to hear of act of vandalism at Darwin Cemetery in Falkland Islands. Welcome urgent response & investigation by FIG.

— Sir Alan Duncan (@AlanDuncanMP) January 24, 2017

The UK Foreign Office, when approached for comment, referred the Guardian to Duncan’s tweet and the Falkland Islands government’s statement.

The Argentinian embassy had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.

A total of 649 Argentinian servicemen were killed during the 10-week Falklands conflict in 1982.


Alice Ross

The GuardianTramp

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