Europe’s largest mosque opens in Chechnya

October 18, 2008

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GROZNY, Oct 17: Chechnya on Friday imposed stringent security for the opening of a mosque said to be Europe’s largest in a symbolic show of the war-torn Russian region’s return to normality.

Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov led a dedication ceremony in the capital, Grozny, before an audience of more than 2,000 people in the “Heart of Chechnya” mosque which authorities say has a capacity of 10,000 people.

“The war in Chechnya was unleashed in order to destroy Russia, but the Chechen people, supported by the federal centre, foiled these filthy plans,” Kadyrov was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.

He also praised Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who oversaw the 1999 war that crushed the region’s separatist leaders, later replaced by a pro-Moscow government. Putin visited the mosque on Thursday.

Access to the Grozny city centre was blocked during the ceremony as soldiers and police were stationed every 100 metres to prevent attacks by militants, which still occur frequently in Chechnya.

Dozens of guests waited in heavy rain to be let inside the mosque dedicated to late Chechen president Ahmad Kadyrov, father of the current leader.

Ahmad Kadyrov was a one-time militant and mufti who preached jihad against Moscow, then switched sides and ruled Chechnya until his assassination in 2004.

His son Ramzan has promoted a greater role for Islam in the Caucasus region even as human rights groups have accused him of involvement in mass killings and abductions.

The 35-acre complex includes a university, library, madressah and dormitories for students.—AFP