Guarded by Bosnian Serb police, Bosnian Muslims on Saturday opened a new mosque in this Serb-controlled town to replace one destroyed during the 1992-95 war.
Hundreds of Muslim believers gathered to inaugurate the mosque, built on the spot where the Obradovacka mosque stood before it was blown up by Bosnian Serb extremists in 1993.
The ceremony, held amid tight security, was not disrupted. Earlier this year, Serb mobs attacked Muslim worshipers who had gathered to lay foundation stones for mosques in Banja Luka and Trebinje, two other towns in what became Bosnia's Serb republic after the conflict.
The believers voiced hope that the reconstruction of the 300-year-old mosque, the first to be opened in the region around Banja Luka--the Serb republic's de facto capital--will help bring back the town's substantial Muslim population, which either fled or was expelled early in the war.
"I'm glad to see Obradovacka mosque reconstructed. It should pave the way for the return of all refugees to the town," said a 65-year-old Muslim woman who found refuge in Croatia.
But some believers said that despite the tight security, they were afraid of any public gatherings, referring to the earlier violence in Trebinje and Banja Luka in which at least 30 people were hurt and a Muslim man died of his injuries.
The Obradovacka mosque was one of 618 destroyed during the conflict in what is now the Serb republic, according to Bosnia's Islamic community.
The first mosque in the region was reconstructed in October in the northwestern town of Prijedor.
"Bosanska Gradiska has today become a town of peace, freedom and prosperity," said Muslim cleric Besim Seper, who led the religious ceremony.