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Friday 23 February 2018

Turkey evacuates Syria tomb troops

Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu said nearly 600 troops and 100 tanks and armoured personnel carriers were involved (AP)
Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu said nearly 600 troops and 100 tanks and armoured personnel carriers were involved (AP)
Turkish soldiers guarding the entrance of the memorial site of Suleyman Shah in Karakozak village (AP)

Turkish soldiers have evacuated dozens of besieged troops guarding an Ottoman tomb in Syria, moving the crypt back into Turkey.

The mission, saving Turkish soldiers reportedly stuck for months at the tomb of the grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire, saw troops cross the border near the once-besieged border town of Kobani.

Turkey was widely criticised for not intervening for months in the Kobani battle, which finally saw Kurdish fighters backed by US-led airstrikes push out the extremists.

"We had given the Turkish armed forces a directive to protect our spiritual values and the safety of our armed forces personnel," Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in televised remarks.

Nearly 600 Turkish soldiers on around 100 tanks and armoured personnel carriers crossed into Syria last night, backed by war planes, Mr Davutoglu said.

One group travelled to the tomb, 22 miles from Turkey on the banks of the Euphrates River in Syria's embattled Aleppo province, Mr Davutoglu said. Another group seized an area only 200 yards from the Turkish border in Syria's Ashma region, according to a statement from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's office.

One soldier was killed in an "accident" during the operation, Turkey's military said.

Turkish media later showed nationalistic images of three Turkish soldiers raising the country's flag at the new site.

"Before the Turkish flag was lowered at (the tomb), the Turkish flag started to be waved at another location in Syria," Mr Davutoglu said.

The tomb belonged to Suleyman Shah, the grandfather of Osman I, founder of the Ottoman Empire. The site along the Euphrates River is revered by Turkey. The Ottoman Empire collapsed in the early 20th century after the First World War.

In the 1970s, Turkey moved the mausoleum to its last location because the old site at a castle further south in Syria was to be inundated by the waters of a new dam.

Press Association

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