Story highlights

More than 200 Commonwealth graves in Benghazi are damaged

The new Libyan government condemns the desecration

The cemeteries have a total of 1,500 World War II-era graves

CNN —  

Britain urged Libya’s new leadership Sunday to investigate the desecration of more than 200 Commonwealth war graves in Benghazi, acts filmed and posted on YouTube that left World War II-era headstones broken and disfigured.

Libya’s National Transitional Council said Sunday it expressed its deep regrets over what happened, calling it “unethical, irresponsible and criminal,” and promised to prosecute those responsible.

“We strongly reject these acts that are rejected by the Islamic faith,” the NTC said in a statement. “Such practices do not represent at all the local public opinion and they contradict the Islamic principles that emphasize and urge the respect of religions and beliefs.”

In the YouTube video, a large group of men is seen walking around the graves, kicking down headstones and using hammers to chip away at the large cross at the front of the cemetery.

Voices are heard saying, “Destroy the cross, these filthy dogs.” Other voices mocked inscriptions on the gravestones, including one engraved with the Star of David.

The description of the video says it is a response to the recent burnings of Qurans by U.S. troops in Afghanistan, but CNN cannot independently confirm that.

The damage happened at two cemeteries in Benghazi, birthplace of last year’s Libyan revolution, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission said. The cemeteries have a total of 1,500 graves containing servicemen who died during and after World War II.

There was no evidence of damage to the graves themselves, only the headstones, the British Foreign Office said.

CNN’s Saad Abedine, Ashley Gallagher, and Bharati Naik contributed to this report.