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Published: Saturday February 15, 2014 MYT 5:35:02 AM
Updated: Saturday February 15, 2014 MYT 5:36:00 AM

Bulgarian police detain 120 after mosque attack

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgarian police detained more than 120 people on Friday after hundreds of nationalists and soccer fans attacked a mosque in the country's second city Plovdiv, smashing its windows with stones.

Over 2,000 people had gathered outside a Plovdiv court as it heard an appeal case dealing with the return of an ancient mosque in the central city of Karlovo, taken over by the state more than 100 years ago, to Bulgaria's Chief Mufti, the Muslim religious authority.

The rally then marched through the city and some protesters, chanting racist slogans, approached a Plovdiv mosque cordoned off by police, police said in a statement.

"Firecrackers, torches and stones were thrown at the mosque. One policeman was injured. Some 120 people were detained," it said.

Sofia prosecutors said they had charged eight people with hooliganism, crimes against religion and xenophobia.

TV footage of national BNT television showed several protesters who appeared to have suffered head injuries in clashes with police.

The Chief Mufti condemned the attack on the mosque and said the attempt to pressure the court put democracy at risk in the European Union country.

Muslims make up about 13 percent of Bulgaria's 7.3 million people.

The Chief Mufti has launched some 26 court cases to try to restore Muslim ownership of 29 mosques and other property across the Balkan state, prompting some public opposition in the predominantly Orthodox Christian population.

(Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; editing by Andrew Roche)

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