Ankara, February 22: Hundreds of Turkish troops entered Syria and occupied the site of a historical Ottoman tomb after evacuating the soldiers guarding it, BBC reported on Sunday. The tomb, located in Syria’s Aleppo city near Turkish border, is considered to be Turkish territory by Ankara. It was being guarded by 38 Turkish soldiers. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the remains of Suleyman Shah tomb would be moved elsewhere in Syria.
Davutoglu said the troops destroyed the tomb’s complex, apparently to prevent it from being used by Islamic State (IS) militants. “We had given the Turkish armed forces a directive to protect our spiritual values and the safety of our armed forces personnel,” he said.
The operation was launched late Saturday night and ended on Sunday morning.
Earlier, in a series of tweets, Davutoglu hailed the armed forces for carrying out a “highly successful” operation amid the “inherent risks” of conflict in Syria. He said the remains had been moved to Turkey but would soon be re-housed in an area of Syria under Turkish military control, closer to the Turkish border.
The Turkish flag had already been raised over the site, the prime minister said, adding that there were no clashes with IS during the operation, but one soldier died in an accident, he added. Suleyman Shah was the grandfather of Osman I, founder of the Ottoman Empire (1299-1922). The tomb was built at the end of the 13th century. In 1921, when Syria was under French rule, Turkey and France reached a deal to assign the tomb as Turkish land. (IANS)