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Friday, 4 June 2010

Muslim graves toppled in Scunthorpe cemetery attack (UK)

MUSLIM leaders have expressed their outrage and sadness after 11 graves in a North Lincolnshire cemetery were vandalised.

The attack was the second in 21 months on Muslim graves in the Brumby Cemetery in Scunthorpe's Cemetery Road.

The Deputy Mayor of North Lincolnshire, Councillor Mashook Ali, said: "We prayed this would never happen again – but it has."

Mr Ali said he felt the graves had been deliberately targeted as there are three sections of the cemetery designated for Muslims.

"We want those responsible brought to justice," he said. "The latest attacks have shocked the local Muslim community to the core. We shall be pressing for extra security measures on the site."

Mr Ali said the community rented areas of the Brumby Cemetery as burial ground under a 99-year-old lease agreement with North Lincolnshire Council and more than 100 Muslims were buried there.

In August 2008, police were called in after 24 headstones, some of them on children's graves, were attacked in two separate areas of the cemetery. No arrests were ever made.

Roj Rahman, 39, of Cliff Gardens, Scunthorpe, said: "We feel let down by the local authority.

"After the 2008 attack we were promised better lighting and pruning of trees to provide higher visibility in that section of the graveyard."

Fellow Scunthorpe Muslim, Saleem Ali, 30, said he called police after discovering the 11 gravestones had been uprooted and toppled over.

Mr Ali said: "It was a disgusting act of vandalism and heart-breaking for the families concerned."

Haq Kataria, 48, of Doncaster Road, Scunthorpe, said: "We feel sure this latest attack was racially motivated. But the dead of any religious denomination need to be respected."

Police have started door-to-door enquiries in the Cemetery Road area following the attack.

North Lincolnshire police's community cohesion officer, Amanda Atkin, said: "I would urge anyone with information to come forward.

"This is pure mindless vandalism and not only do the families have to pay for any damage caused but there is the added upset of their loved ones' graves being disturbed.

"Neighbourhood policing teams are currently working with members of the local Muslim community and will do everything in their power to identify the offenders."

North Lincolnshire Council, which is responsible for the cemetery, has promised to further review security arrangements on the site with the help of the newly formed Friends of Brumby Cemetery community group.

A spokesman said: "Irrespective of race or religion, the council condemns any attack on burial places. It is extremely upsetting for relatives who have lost loved ones and the council wants to stop it happening again.

"A meeting was held shortly after the attack in August 2008 between members of the Muslim Community, the council, the police and the Multi Faith Partnership.

"At that meeting it was brought to our attention that a tree was obscuring some of the lighting in the cemetery.

"This tree was cut back a short time later and we will now look at it again.

"We also improved security by locking the cemetery gates other than those by the caretaker's cottage."

Anyone with information about the incident, between 9am and 2.24pm on Saturday, should contact Humberside Police on 0845 60 60 222 quoting BG/1759387/2010.

This is Scunthorpe