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Turkey evacuates troops guarding tomb inside Syria: PM

AFP , Sunday 22 Feb 2015
File photo of The Suleyman Shah tomb near the northern Syrian city of Aleppo is seen in May 16, 2008 (Photo:Reuters)
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A group of Turkish soldiers entered Syria in a successful operation to repatriate troops guarding a Turkish enclave surrounded by Islamic State (IS) militants, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Sunday.

Turkish media reports said some 700 elite Turkish troops entered Syria overnight to repatriate the soldiers guarding the pocket of Turkish territory that contains an Ottoman-era tomb deep inside northern Syria.

One soldier was killed in an accident during the operation to relieve the guards at the tomb, the Turkish army said in a separate statement.

Around 40 soldiers were said to be guarding the final resting place of Suleyman Shah, grandfather of the Ottoman empire's founder, Osman I.

Davutoglu said in a statement that the mission had resulted in the successful repatriation of the soldiers who had guarded the tomb, as well as the remains of Suleyman Shah himself.

"The remains of (Suleyman Shah) have been temporarily repatriated and will be reburied inside Syria at a later date", he added.

Davutoglu congratulated the Turkish army on the success of an operation that he said had posed "considerable potential risks".

The operation was carried out some 30 kilometres (18 miles) inside Syrian territory, in an area controlled by IS militants who have seized swathes of Iraq and Syria.

There has been considerable concern in Turkey in recent months over the wellbeing of the troops guarding the tomb although the government has always kept silent about their status.

Ankara had repeatedly warned of military reprisals if the troops guarding the tomb were ever hurt.

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