Fire wrecks key mosque, stokes fears of fall­out

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

Po­lice and the fire ser­vice in north­ern Greece were yes­ter­day in­ves­ti­gat­ing the cause of a large fire that ripped through a 600-year-old Ot­toman mosque in Didy­mote­i­cho in the early hours of the morn­ing, caus­ing ex­ten­sive dam­age but no in­juries.

The Bayezid Mosque, a cul­tural mon­u­ment rather than a func­tion­ing prayer site, had been un­der­go­ing ex­ten­sion ren­o­va­tion work that had been on track to fin­ish by the end of the year.

The fire de­stroyed the mosque’s unique wooden roof and melted a metal cover that had been placed over it for pro­tec­tion by restora­tion work­ers.

The walls of the struc­ture emerged un­scathed from the blaze.

Ex­perts in­di­cated yes­ter­day that the struc­ture could be fixed but noted that the re­pairs would be costly and would take time.

The cause of the blaze re­mained un­clear late last night. How­ever, wit­nesses told Kathimerini that a smaller fire had bro­ken out on Tues­day and had been put out.

Ru­mors that Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan was set to travel to Didy­mote­i­cho to in­spect the dam­age to the his­toric mosque swirled around the town all day yes­ter­day, but there was no in­di­ca­tion that such a visit was on the cards.

The Turk­ish con­sul gen­eral in Ko­mo­tini, Ali Riza Ak­inci, vis­ited the re­mains of the mosque and took the op­por­tu­nity to un­der­line its re­li­gious and cul­tural sig­nif­i­cance. He added that his coun­try was pre­pared to con­trib­ute to its ren­o­va­tion if its sup­port is re­quested.

The Greek For­eign Min­istry did not is­sue a for­mal state­ment about the fire at the mosque. How­ever, ac­cord­ing to sources, news about the fire fu­eled con­cern among diplo­mats early yes­ter­day.

Er­do­gan’s in­creas­ingly provoca­tive stance and the po­lar­ized cli­mate in Turkey ahead of a key ref­er­en­dum in April that he hopes will grant him fur­ther pow­ers have fu­eled fears in Greece that the fire could prompt fur­ther ag­gres­sive rhetoric. “Such an in­ci­dent... must not be ex­ploited for po­lit­i­cal rea­sons, whether that be by Turkey or any­one else,” gov­ern­ment spokesman Dim­itris Tzanakopou­los said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Greece

© PressReader. All rights reserved.