The vandals smashed seven Muslim gravestones overnight in the military cemetery in this town north of Strasbourg, capital of the region which has seen about a dozen graffiti attacks on Muslim, Jewish and Christian sites in recent weeks.

In a statement, on Thursday, Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin expressed "indignation at this new manifestation of hate, which is particularly unbearable because it concerns soldiers who made the supreme sacrifice to defend the freedom of France."

A desecration of Muslim graves in Strasbourg last week prompted President Jacques Chirac to announce a new drive to end ethnic intolerance in France.

Villepin visited local Muslim leaders after that attack to announce the creation of an interfaith committee to work towards greater tolerance and understanding.

Local Muslim leaders reported seven attacks against Muslim sites in Strasbourg in April, including graffiti saying "death to Arabs". Most Muslims in France are of North African origin.

France is home to Europe's largest Muslim and Jewish minorities, both of which have sizable communities in Alsace.