Thousands of Muslim believers are flocking to Banja Luka on Saturday to attend a ceremony marking the completion of the reconstruction of the Ferhad Pasha Mosque which was levelled by Bosnian Serb authorities on 7 May 1993.
At least 10,000 faithful are expected to attend the ceremonial reopening of the rebuilt Ferhadija mosque, which was one of the landmarks of Banja Luka for centuries.
The Ferhat Pasha Mosque, built in 1579, was one of the most significant Ottoman architectural achievements in Bosnia and Herzegovina but was razed to the ground by Bosnian Serb forces in 1993 despite being protected by UNESCO.
Security will be tight for the reopening, which will be attended by various Bosnian and international dignitaries including Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. Croatian Culture Minister Zlatko Hasenbegovic will also attend the event.
Although Banja Luka saw little combat during the Bosnian war, all 16 mosques in the city, of which Ferhadija was the most famous, were destroyed.
The first attempts to reconstruct the Ferhadija mosque were met with violence. The ceremony at which the cornerstone for the reconstructed mosque was laid took place on the eighth anniversary of its destruction, on May 7, 2001, but was followed by riots by Serb nationalists. By the end of the riots, one Bosniak had been killed and more than 30 people injured.
Fifteen years later, the mosque has been reconstructed on authentic foundations and debris of the original building have been included in the reconstructed mosque.
The Ferhad Pasha Mosque, also known as the Ferhadija Mosque was one of the greatest achievements of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s 16th century Ottoman to impose Islamic architecture in Europe.
Ferhadija was listed as a Bosnia and Herzegovina cultural heritage site in 1950. It was subsequently protected by UNESCO until its destruction in 1993.