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Turkish troops roll into Syria to evacuate tomb enclave

One soldier killed in accident as heavily armed convoy moves through Kobane en route to Tomb of Suleyman Shah

In this April 7, 2011 file photo, Turkish soldiers stand guard at the entrance of the memorial site of Suleyman Shah, grandfather of Osman I, founder of the Ottoman Empire, in Karakozak village, northeast of Aleppo, Syria. (photo credit: AP)
In this April 7, 2011 file photo, Turkish soldiers stand guard at the entrance of the memorial site of Suleyman Shah, grandfather of Osman I, founder of the Ottoman Empire, in Karakozak village, northeast of Aleppo, Syria. (photo credit: AP)

Turkey launched a military operation late Saturday to evacuate troops and a tomb in Syria that belongs to the Republic of Turkey, state TV reported.

A large military convoy, including tanks and heavy weapons supported by warplanes, passed through the embattled border city of Kobane en route to the Tomb of Suleyman Shah, the BBC cited local sources saying.

On Twitter Sunday morning, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the troops were evacuated safely back into Turkey.

He said the tomb of Suleyman Shah, the grandfather of Osman I, founder of the Ottoman Empire, also was moved into Turkey.

Davutoglu said the evacuation of the artifacts was temporary and Turkish troops “took control of an area in the Ashma region of Syria, raising our flag, where Süleyman Shah will later be transferred,” according to Turkish daily Hurriyet.

The building that had housed the tomb was destroyed by the troops to keep Islamic State fighters from using it as a base, according to Hurriyet.

Davutoglu was expected to give a statement later Sunday.

https://twitter.com/ragipsoylu/status/569376757306019840

The operation was reportedly coordinated with the Kurdish militias that have pushed back Islamic State fighters around the city of Kobane after months of siege.

Earlier reports said that the tomb of Suleiman Shah was besieged by the Islamic State’s forces.

One Turkish soldier was accidentally killed during the operation that was launched Saturday night, military sources told CNNTürk.

Turkey ordinarily stations 40 troops at the site. Although it is roughly 20 miles into Syrian territory, the tiny enclave is sovereign Turkish territory.

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Kobane was the focus of US airstrikes as Kurdish forces battled militants of the Islamic State group, who hold about a third of Iraq and neighboring Syria in their self-declared caliphate.

Turkey stayed out of the battle at the time, which saw Kurds push out the extremists.

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