Mission successful, according to the Turkish government, as soldiers guarding the tomb of Suleyman Shah are evacuated from Syria and his remains exhumed.
A delicate operation on the Syria – Turkey border appears to have gone smoothly.
Turkish soldiers guarding the tomb of Suleyman Shah – the grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire – have been evacuated from Syria, Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has announced.
Although 37 kilometres across the border into Syria, the tomb lies in Turkish territory, according to a treaty signed in 1921.
It is usually guarded by some 40 soldiers, who rotate periodically, but routes between the site and Turkey have been blocked for around eight months, Turkish media states.
Important point: #SuleymanShahTomb stays within #Syria but this time at a closer location to the border. #Turkeypic.twitter.com/UxeSIHn0ZE— Mehmet Akif Özdemir (@ma_ozdemir) February 22, 2015
The remains of the body were exhumed and the site destroyed, our correspondent, Bora Bayraktar, reports.
PM Davutoglu said Suleyman Shah’s remains will now be moved to an area of Syria which is under the control of the Turkish military.
Turkish soldiers guard near as Turkish flag is raised in the Esme region of #Aleppo, #SuleymanShahTomb will be placed pic.twitter.com/gLmgOe1CPO— Anadolu Images (@anadoluimages) February 22, 2015
Our correspondent 572 soldiers entered from the border town of Kobani to relieve the guards of their posts. It’s a city Syrian Kurdish fighters took back from ISIL militants in January.
Late in 2014, the Turkish government claimed ISIL militants were advancing on the site.
Reports now suggest the overnight operation to withdraw troops was carried out because of this threat. The process was said to have been coordinated with the Syrian Kurds – a group heavily involved in the fight against the Islamic State militants.
There were no armed clashes, although one Turkish soldier died in an accident at the beginning of the operation.