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Russia: Mayor Of Moscow Defends Raid On Mosque

Moscow, 3 October 1996 (RFE/RL) -- The Mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, has defended a police raid on the main mosque in the Russian capital.

The raid, which happened just before evening prayers on Tuesday night, outraged Muslim leaders who accused police of beating worshipers and of failing to show respect by removing their shoes before entering .

Luzhkov said today that only one police officer went inside the mosque who was himself a Muslim. Luzhkov said the officer did take off his shoes beforehand in accordance with Muslim custom.

But Abdul-Vakhed Niyazov, head of the Union of Muslims in Russia, has said that worshipers, who included ethnic Chechens and Ingushis from southern Russia, were beaten and detained during the raid which he indicated had involved more than one officer.

The raid has fueled longstanding complaints of discrimination from people from Central Asia and the Caucasus region and people of minority religions.

It also comes amid growing Russian concern over Islamic fundamentalism, sparked in part by events in Afghanistan, where fundamentalist fighters now control much of the country.