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War-ravaged historic 'Pearl of Bosnia' Mosque reopens

Located in Foca in eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina, the mosque was demolished by Serb forces during the 1992-1995 Bosnian War but rebuilt over the last five years with the support of Turkey's General Directorate of Foundations. (Denis Zuberi / AA)

The historic Aladza Mosque, known as the "Pearl of Bosnia," emerged from the ashes to reopen for prayers on Saturday.

Located in Foca in eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina, the mosque was demolished by Serb forces during the 1992-1995 Bosnian War but rebuilt over the last five years with the support of Turkey's General Directorate of Foundations.

The reconstruction of the mosque, located 80 kilometres southeast of the capital Sarajevo, began in 2014.

Built-in 1549 by Hasan Nezir, a close colleague of renowned Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan, it is one of the first mosques with a classical Ottoman architecture built in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The reopening ceremony was attended by Turkey's Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy and Adnan Ertem, head of the Foundations Directorate.

Speaking at the ceremony, Ersoy said the Aladza Mosque has been reborn and expressed his pride at restoring this historical treasure.

"It is our primary duty to work with the idea of creating a future that we will be sure will not experience those great pains instead of building the future through suffering,” he said.

“Today the Aladza Mosque stands again in all its glory, as a symbol of this ideal. It is an indication that racism and hatred could only harm materials but never touch the Balkans’ centuries-long culture of fellowship."

The Aladza Mosque has reopened after a five-year rebuilding process in Foca, Bosnia and Herzegovina in May 4, 2019. (Denis Zuberi / AA)

Ertem said that the historic mosque is a symbol of peace, friendship, fellowship, understanding, and reconciliation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The ceremony was also attended by Bosniak Member of the Presidency Sefik Dzaferovic, Bosnia and Herzegovina Peoples House head Bakir Izetbegovic, Council of Ministers Chairman Denis Zvizdic, Bosnia Grand Mufti Husein Kavazovic, many more top officials, and thousands of members of the public.There were 12 mosques in Foca when the Bosnian War started. All were destroyed by Serb forces.

According to Bosnia's Islamic Union, during the war, hundreds of specimens of Islamic heritage were destroyed, including 614 mosques, 218 prayer rooms, 69 Quran course sites, four dervish lodges, 37 tombs, and 405 pieces of historical heritage that belong to Muslim foundations.

Some 534 mosques in territories controlled by Serb forces were destroyed, while 80 mosques were destroyed in territories under Croat forces.

According to the union, 80% of the 1,144 mosques in Bosnia were destroyed or damaged, and more than 100 imams were killed by Serb and Croat forces.

The mosque was opened on the eve of Bosnia's Day of Mosques, according to the Islamic Union of Bosnia Herzegovina.

The small Balkan country, which survived massive shelling during the war, as well as massacres and the 1995 Srebrenica genocide, marks May 7 as the Day of Mosques.