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Mosque opening in Moscow attended by Putin, Abbas, Erdogan

The turquoise-domed mosque can host over 10,000 worshippers [Getty]

Date of publication: 23 September, 2015

See the album, The Moscow Cathedral Mosque
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Russian President Vladimir Putin has been joined by the Turkish and Palestinian leaders at the ceremonial opening of the Russian capital's new main mosque.

Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Wednesday opened one of the biggest mosques in Europe, warning against the lure of extremists as the government frets over its citizens fighting for the Islamic State group.

Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas were the guests of honour at the unveiling of the 20,000-square metre mosque in the Russian capital.

"This mosque will become an extremely important spiritual centre for Muslims in Moscow and the whole Russia," Putin said in a televised speech.

     This mosque will become an extremely important spiritual centre for Muslims in Moscow and the whole Russia
- Russian President Vladimir Putin 

"It will be a source for education, spreading humanist ideas and the true values of Islam."

The turquoise-domed mosque can host over 10,000 worshippers and is one of the largest in the country that will help to serve Russia's estimated 20 million muslims.

Calls from Muslim religious leaders to build more mosques have met with opposition from city officials and residents.

Fight against extremists 

Moscow - which has battled an Islamic insurgency in its volatile southern Caucasus region - is worried about the pull of extremist groups, especially Islamic State extremists fighting in Syria and Iraq.

Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev last week estimated that some 1,800 Russian citizens are fighting for the radical group.

Putin in his speech lashed out at extremist groups for their "attempts to cynically exploit religious feeling for political ends."

"We see what is happening in the Middle East where terrorists from the so-called Islamic State group are compromising a great world religion, compromising Islam, in order to sow hate," he said.

Putin was later set to meet Erdogan for talks that were expected to focus on the Syrian conflict, as the West frets about a buildup of Russian forces in the war-torn country.

The United States says Moscow has recently sent troops, tanks and fighter jets to Syria, sparking fears that Russia could be looking to join the fight alongside its ally President Bashar al-Assad.

Turkey and Russia stand on opposing sides over the crisis in Syria, with Ankara fiercely backing the rebels trying to oust Assad.

Turkey is currently waging what Ankara describes as a two-pronged "war on terror" against both IS and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), although so far air strikes have overwhelmingly focused on bases of the Kurdish militants in northern Iraq.

Moscow has been on a diplomatic push to try to get Western and regional powers involved in a coalition against IS to join forces with Assad.

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