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Argentine War Shrine Attacked In Falklands

A monument to more than 200 Argentine soldiers killed in the Falklands War has been vandalised.

The memorial in the disputed British-held territory "fell victim to an act of vandalism by unknown perpetrators," according to a statement on the website of The Commission of Relatives of the Fallen in the Malvinas, as Argentina calls the islands.

The glass case that surrounds a statue of the Virgin Mary was smashed a number of times at the Argentine Military Cemetery in Darwin.

Families of the Argentine war dead blamed British hostility for what they called an "act of sacrilege" and sent letters to Argentine foreign minister Hector Timerman and Britain's ambassador in Buenos Aires, John Freeman, demanding an urgent investigation.

"We believe that reflects escalating hostility by certain British sectors who are influential locally," their commission said in a statement.

"We will not let up until this repugnant act of sacrilege is clarified."

The vandalism was discovered by Argentine national Sebastian Socodo, who lives on the Falkland Islands and maintains the monument.

He said: "It's basically the glass that covers the Virgin Mary. They just smashed the glass. I don't know with what or how.

"I was there a couple of weeks ago and there was no damage."

Images of the damage show the glass was broken by more than a dozen sharp blows.

The Virgin figure, whose blue and white garments are the only expression of Argentine pride permitted in the islands, has been removed to protect it from the elements until the shrine can be repaired.

The remote cemetery has been the focus of attention during this year's 30th anniversary of the Falklands conflict but on most days and nights, the lonely hillside more than an hour from the capital of Stanley gets few visitors.

There are 234 graves of Argentine soldiers in the South Atlantic islands, where 649 Argentine soldiers and 255 British died in the 74-day conflict in 1982.

Tensions over the islands, claimed by Argentina since 1833, have heated up over the past year.

Argentina claims sovereignty of the islands, accusing Britain of colonialism.

But Britain says Argentina should respect the wishes of the local population.