KABUL, Afghanistan — Saudi Arabian officials launched work on a massive Islamic center to be built on a hilltop in the heart of Kabul Friday, saying the multi-million-dollar complex will help battle terrorism. "The main motive for building this Islamic center is to further strengthen brotherly relations between Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, and to present a moderate and true face of Islam,” Saudi Ambassador Musfir Bin Abdurrahman Al-Ghasib told reporters. When journalists bombarded the diplomat with questions on whether the investment was actually aimed at offsetting the influence of regional powers, namely Saudi Arabia’s arch-rival and Afghanistan's neighbor Iran, he said that the project will serve to “counter extremism and terrorism.”
Saudi Arabia was a key player in the decade-long fight against the Soviet occupation of the 1980s and sent fighters and millions of dollars to extremist militias, some of which are still powerful. Saudi Arabia, which enforces a strict and austere interpretation of Islamic law, was also one of only three countries to recognize the hardline Taliban regime before it was toppled by U.S.-backed forces in 2001. The massive Islamic complex, which will consist of a grand mosque and Islamic education center that will provide a religious education to thousands, is due to be completed by mid-2017, long after the NATO coalition forces withdraw from the country.
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