Turkish Troops Enter Syria to Evacuate Tomb

Operation shifted ancient remains of Ottoman leader
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 23, 2015 12:00 AM CST
Turkish Troops Enter Syria to Evacuate Tomb
The Turkish army's armored vehicles and tanks roll through Kobani as they head toward the Ottoman tomb in Syria on Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015.   (AP Photo/Mursel Coban, Depo Photos)

Hundreds of Turkish troops backed by tanks took part in an overnight operation into neighboring Syria to evacuate dozens of besieged soldiers guarding an Ottoman tomb and remove the remains amid fears the shrine was threatened by ISIS militants. The mission to the tomb of the grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire was the first such major military incursion by Turkey since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011. Turkish authorities say nearly 600 soldiers on some 100 tanks and armored personnel carriers crossed into Syria near the border town of Kobani, with one group traveling to the tomb 22 miles from Turkey and another group seizing an area a few hundred yards from the border in Syria's Ashma region to be the new home for the tomb.

The tomb housed the remains of Suleyman Shah, who is believed to have drowned in the Euphrates River in the 13th century. One soldier was killed in an "accident" during the operation, Turkey's military says, and the US-led coalition forces were informed of the operation after its launch to prevent any casualties. Turkey's foreign minister says Ankara notified Syria before the operation that it was vacating the tomb temporarily, and that it would return to the area when it is "ready" to do so. "We got permission from no one, we conducted it with our own initiative," he says. Syria's foreign ministry denounced the Turkish operation, calling it a "flagrant aggression" and accusing Turkey of supporting ISIS. (More Kobani stories.)

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