Vandals have desecrated at a Jewish cemetery in Manchester.
Fourteen headstones were destroyed in what police called a "sickening act of criminal damage" at Blackley Jewish Cemetery in Charlestown, north-east Manchester.
The attack was believed to have taken place yesterday. No antisemitic graffiti was found at the scene.
Chief Superintendent Wasim Chaudhry from Greater Manchester police’s north Manchester division, said it was believed the desecration was “a deliberate and targeted attack.
“So to have those graves desecrated in such a disgusting and disrespectful way will no doubt cause immeasurable anguish to the families and loved ones affected.”
He said that the police “will do everything we can to find out who is responsible and bring the full force of the law down on them", adding: "This has been recorded as a hate crime because of the clear racial motivation."
Extra patrols have been put in place in the area.
Chief Supt Chaudhry said: “I hope they will act as a visible deterrent and provide some additional reassurance for any concerned residents, we are also working closely with our partner agencies to investigate the matter.”
He urged anyone in the area who know who carried out the attacks or saw anything to come forward.
He said: “Someone will know who is responsible and I would urge those people to do the right thing, do the decent thing."
The Community Security Trust said it had joined Greater Manchester Police and the Jewish Cemetery Trust in inspecting the the gravestones today.
In a statement, CST said: "Even though no antisemitic graffiti was found, at best this is a despicable act of criminal vandalism and at worst a targeted hate crime. It has caused deep distress to those who have loved ones in the cemetery and to the wider Jewish community."
It urged anyone with information about the incident to contact the CST incidents team on 0208 457 9999 or contact the GMP by calling 101.
Board of Deputies vice president Marie van der Zyl described the desecration as "hateful, cowardly, stupid and designed to cause maximum distress to the families involved."
She added: "We hope that the culprits will be prosecuted and feel the full force of the law.”
Tony Lloyd, Mayor of Greater Manchester, said: “This is a disgusting act of vandalism that will cause anguish, fear and anger among our communities, and could lead to serious divisions within our neighbourhoods.
“I am pleased that Greater Manchester Police has responded so quickly to this incident and correctly identified this abhorrent desecration as a hate crime.
“We’re in contact with the Community Security Trust – an organisation that protects British Jews from antisemitism and related threats – and I want to reassure them, and our Jewish community, that such deplorable behaviour will not be tolerated in Greater Manchester."
The cemetery suffered a similar attack in June 2014 when numerous gravestones were smashed and daubed with swastika.
Two 13-year-old boys pleaded guilty to a charge of criminal damage following the desecration.