Turkey

Turkish military enters Syria to relocate tomb in exclave

Successful military operation relocates body of Suleyman Shah to temporary location in Syria closer to Turkish border, Turkish PM confirms

22.02.2015
Turkish military enters Syria to relocate tomb in exclave

ANKARA

Turkish armed forces conducted an operation in Turkey's exclave in Syria to relocate the tomb of Suleyman Shah, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said early on Sunday.

The two-pronged operation, which began late Saturday, simultaneously returned the body of Suleyman Shah and sacred relics from the original exclave to Turkey, and secured another area in Syria close to the border with Turkey to act as a temporary burial place.

One Turkish soldier died in an accident early in the operation, which otherwise went smoothly without any skirmish or interruption, Prime Minister Davutoglu said.

Suleyman Shah, the grandfather of Osman I, the founder of the Ottoman Empire, was buried in Turkey's only exclave 30 kilometers from the border.

The complex at the original burial place has now been rendered unusable on security grounds, and the Turkish special forces unit protecting the area has been brought back to Turkey, the prime minister said.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry informed the Syrian government of the operation after the fact.

'Rights protected'

The Turkish armed forces moved late Saturday with 572 troops, 39 tanks, over 150 vehicles to simultaneously relocate the body in the original exclave site and secure another location in Syria only hundreds of meters from the Turkish border, PM Davutoglu confirmed, appearing on television flanked by Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz and General Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces, Necdet Ozel.

The operation came about "in light of a recent rise in clashes in the region (Syria) and as a result of the Turkish Armed Forces' opinion on the compelling military circumstances," Davutoglu said.

The operation was launched and conducted by Ankara and Turkey sought no permission or help from any other party, he said.

The Turkish armed forces informed U.S.-led coalition air forces operating over Iraq and Syria after the operation started, the prime minister added.

Davutoglu noted that through the operation, Turkey's international rights over its exclave in Syria were protected.

On Sunday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had phone calls with Prime Minister Davutoglu, Chief of Staff Ozel and land forces commander general Hulusi Akar to congratulate them on the successful operation.

In March last year, the possibility of an attack on the exclave by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant militants emerged, prompting then prime minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to declare that any attack on the exclave would be tantamount to attacking Turkey itself.

In October, the Turkish parliament authorized the armed forces for a year to conduct military operations in Syria and Iraq in a bill that also recognized the dangers the exclave faced.

The tomb of Suleyman Shah had been relocated twice before over the span of nearly eighty years.

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