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Grozny Opens 'Europe's Biggest Mosque'

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov
Officials in the capital of Russia's southern republic of Chechnya have opened what is being called Europe's largest mosque, accommodating more than 10,000 worshipers.

"This is the pride of the entire Muslim community," Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov told attendees at the opening in Grozny of the $20 million project, whose construction began more than three years ago. "This makes us happy and joyful because we are truly devoted Muslims."

The building is named Akhmad-Haji Kadyrov Mosque, after the current president's father, who was assassinated in 2004.

It was erected on the site of the former Soviet Communist Party's regional headquarters.

More than 200 Muslim clerics from around the world attended the ceremony in Grozny, which is still rebuilding after years of war.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who arrived in Grozny on October 16, got a tour of the new mosque ahead of its inauguration.

"I think that not only the Chechen people and the Muslims of Chechnya, but also all the Muslims of Russia can be proud of this mosque," Putin said. "This is really a big gift to the whole Muslim world."

Earlier this month, a central avenue in Grozny was named after Putin, who as president sent in troops to retake control of the separatist republic. Previously called Victory Avenue, the avenue is now called Putin Avenue.

The mosque will accommodate over 10,000 worshipers and features 60-meter tall minarets. It will be surrounded by Chechnya's Islamic administration, a religious school, an Islamic university, a hotel, and a religious library.

The pro-Moscow Kadyrov has hailed the complex as an important step forward for the people of Chechnya after years of war. During the Soviet era, Chechnya had no main mosque.

Kadyrov, speaking this week in Grozny, said: "Up to now residents of the republican capital didn't have an opportunity to pray in one, main mosque, though it is usual for all Islamic states and regions where Islam is practiced."

At least 10 percent of Chechnya's population, about 100,000 people, is estimated to have been killed in fighting over the last years. Human rights groups, however, say the number is much higher.