Mosque reopens in Serb town

Thousands of Bosnian Muslims have attended a ceremony in the Serb-dominated city of Banja Luka to open the first mosque rebuilt there since the end of the Bosnian war.

Security was tight as authorities feared the repeat of violent clashes in 2001 when building started, but no incidents were reported.

All 21 mosques in Banja Luka were destroyed during the 1992-1995 war, and most of the city's Muslim inhabitants were expelled.

Thousands have since returned, but many have stayed abroad.

Correspondents say it is the exiles who have contributed largely to the reconstruction of the mosque.

Tight security

About 4,000 people from the Republika Srpska and the other part of Bosnia-Herzegovina - the Muslim-Croat Federation - attended the ceremony in Banja Luka's suburb of Vrbanja.

"Those who destroyed our mosque and expelled us from here thought we would never come back again," Fahrudin Prlja, 42, was quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency.

"But love made us come back to our Vrbanja and here is the mosque again, nicer then it was before," he added.

The reconstruction of the mosque, which was originally built in 1973, reportedly cost about 110,000 euros ($120,000).

All those entering the mosque had to pass through a metal detector before being allowed in.

Police reinforcements had also been called, as local authorities feared the repeat of the anti-Muslim riots in May 2001 during the ceremony to lay the cornerstone of the mosque.

The violence left one person dead and dozens injured. Several Serb nationalists were later jailed for starting the violence.