Sun Feb 22, 2015 6:3AM
The Turkish military has launched an operation to evacuate troops guarding an Ottoman tomb surrounded by ISIL militants in neighboring Syria.
TRT television broadcaster said on Sunday that the overnight military operation kicked off when ground troops supported by warplanes entered the Syrian territory to evacuate the troops.
The tomb was located just over the border near the Kurdish town of Kobani, which was recently liberated from ISIL grip.
Media reports also said one soldier was killed during the offensive that also moved the tomb into Turkey.
The army later released a statement saying the soldier lost his life in an “accident” en route to the tomb.
Around 40 soldiers, including 20 elite troops from the Turkish special forces, are said to have been guarding the tomb of Suleyman Shah, the grandfather of Osman I, founder of the Ottoman Empire. Reports said 700 elite Turkish troops were involved in the offensive.
Turkey’s Premier Ahmet Davutoglu, who was previously the country’s foreign minister, said in March 2014 that Ankara would take all necessary measures to protect the security of the tomb, which is considered Turkish territory based on an accord signed between Turkey and France in 1921.
In a Sunday message posted on twitter, the Turkish prime minister confirmed the operation.
Davutoglu noted that the tomb would be sent to a “new location in Syria.”
He is expected to comment on the operation later in the day.
On Friday, Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, dismissed reports that Turkish troops guarding the tomb had been held captive by the ISIL militants, denouncing such reports as “false,” according to the semiofficial Anadolu News Agency.
The tomb was formerly located some 35 kilometers (22 miles) from Turkey on the banks of the Euphrates River in Syria’s Aleppo Province.