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Turkish Military Enters Syria to Evacuate Soldiers and Move Tomb, Reports Say



ISTANBUL — The Turkish Army launched a military operation into Syria to evacuate soldiers guarding the Tomb of Suleyman Shah, which has been besieged by Islamic State militants, and moved the tomb across the border into Turkey, an official and Turkish news media reported on Sunday. The military then destroyed what was left of the site to prevent the militants from using the enclave, and one soldier was killed by accident during the operation, CNN Turk said Sunday, citing military officials. The operation, called “Sah Firat,” began on Saturday and involved a large convoy of tanks and other heavy weaponry that entered Syria through Kobani, the Kurdish territory in Syria that has recently been freed of Islamic State militants in an American-led military operation, according to the Turkish newspapers Milliyet and Yeni Safak. The reports were pulled from the Internet almost immediately after being posted.
The military operation was conducted in correspondence with Enver Muslim, the leader of the Syrian Kurdish group in control of Kobani, and aimed to evacuate around 40 soldiers, including 20 elite troops from the Turkish special forces who guarded the tomb. Suleyman Shah was the grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire. His tomb is considered by the government here to be in Turkish territory, and it has been guarded by Turkish soldiers.The reports said that the operation, which started on Saturday, continued through Sunday, although it was uncertain whether the Turkish military had confronted the militants who held the territory around the tomb, which lies about 20 miles inside Syria. As of early Sunday, there was no official statements regarding the military operation. But a Turkish lawmaker said on his Twitter account that the military had entered into Syria and arrived at the tomb early Sunday. “TSK (Turkish Armed Forces) entered in Saygi Station. Our station is taken under protection. Clashes or attacks out of question,” wrote Sinan Ogan, a deputy of Nationalist Movement Party in opposition. And Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu posted to Twitter that all the tomb’s valuables, including historical remains, were delivered back to Turkey. In March, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu of Turkey, the foreign minister at the time, said that Turkey would take any measure necessary to safeguard the security of the tomb, referred to as Turkish soil based on an accord signed between Turkey and France in 1921. “Should there be an attack, either from the regime, or radical groups or elsewhere, it would be countered equally,” he said. Mr. Davutoglu’s statement was soon followed by the replacement of the tomb’s regular guards with special forces troops. In 2012, at a time Syrian conflict had intensified and started to threaten the security along Turkey’s southern borders, Ankara revised its military engagement rules and licensed the army to launch cross-border operations as deemed necessary. Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, on Friday denied claims that Turkish troops guarding the Suleyman Shah tomb had been taken hostage by the Islamic State, also known ISIS or ISIL, calling such reports “false,” the semiofficial Anadolu News Agency reported.
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