Somalia's prime minister Saturday condemned the recent desecration of Italian graves in the capital, Mogadishu.
Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi told reporters in Nairobi Saturday that his government strongly condemns what he called an "abhorrent, criminal and inhumane act."
Earlier this week, vandals dug up the remains of Italian missionaries, soldiers, and other expatriates buried in a Mogadishu cemetery owned by the Italian government.
Prime Minister Gedi said Somalis held a large demonstration in Mogadishu Saturday morning to protest the desecration. "The estimates we have up to now are 50 to 70 graves. But the bones have been preserved and kept by the Somali people in Mogadishu. This (was done by a) few opportunists who are not organized and who are not representing any entity," he said.
State minister of parliament and government relations, Abdurahman Ibbi, visited the cemetery to assess the damage.
Mr. Ibbi told VOA he thinks a group of criminals with no political, clan, or religious affiliations destroyed the graves. He said mosques and Islamic law courts have loudly condemned the desecration.
He said he thinks the criminals did what they did to oppose and discredit the new Somali government and sour its relations with Italy. "This new government needs help, needs support, needs aid from the Italian government. So they don't want the Italian government to help the (Somali) government. Maybe some of these opportunists who might not actually want this government to succeed, you know," he said.
The Italian government has swiftly condemned the incident, calling it a "barbarous, vile, hateful act."
Prime Minister Gedi told reporters he hopes the desecration will not harm relations between his country and Italy. He noted that the Somali president on Friday visited an Italian war memorial in Kenya with Italian officials.
Somalia was an Italian colony from 1908 to 1941.