A one hundred-year-old mosque burned to the ground in the northern Bulgarian town of Nikopol, amid accusations of arson, media report.
Eyewitnesses told media that firefighters rushed the scene, but were too late as the flames quickly enveloped the entire building.
Imam Gyursel Mimishev, speaking to Bulgarian National Television, said the fire was the result of politically motivated arson. He accused local activists from the Movement of Rights and Freedoms, the party led and supported by Bulgarians of ethnic Turkish descent, of committing the act in revenge to his support for centre-right Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s government.
”I believe that this was arson, not emanating from ethnic hatred or anything like that, but politically-motivated,” he told the TV station on Wednesday, when the fire occured.
Nikopol’s mayor Valerii Zheliaskov rejected the allegations, saying it is an accident. “There is no ethnic tension in Nikopol, and there never was. People here get on with their daily lives, and religion here is not an issue, I don’t believe that this was perpetrated with any sinister motive, I think it was an accident,” Zheliaskov told media.
There were 110 attacks on mosques and Islamic places of worship in the country in 2008, according to Bulgaria’s Chief Mufti. He said that no one had been brought to justice. Authorities say that in 2000 another mosque in Nikopol was torched.
The authorities have pledged 25,000 leva for the restoration of the two mosques in Nikopol and one in Blagoevgrad, which was also recently subjected to acts of vandalism.