Turkish army active on Syria border after it evacuates troops guarding mausoleum

Turkish military vehicles are seen on the move in a town on the border with Syria as Ankara announces a successful mission to evacuate Turkish soldiers guarding a mausoleum in Syria.

MURSITPINAR, TURKEY (FEBRUARY 22, 2015) (DHA) – Turkish forces swept into Syria overnight (February 21-22) to rescue about 40 soldiers who had been surrounded for months by Islamic State militants while guarding the tomb of a revered Turkish figure.

The operation, which involved tanks, drones, reconnaissance planes as well as several hundred ground troops, was the first such incursion by Turkish troops into Syria since the start of the civil war there nearly four years ago.

The military said no clashes took place during the operation although one soldier had been killed in an accident.

The 38 soldiers who had been guarding the tomb of Suleyman Shah, grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire, were brought safely home. The tomb, which is on a site within Syria that Ankara considers sovereign territory, was relocated

A Turkish security source said the operation was conducted via the Syrian Kurdish border town of Kobani with the support of local Kurdish authorities.

Across the border from Kobani, a convoy of low loader trucks carrying tanks passed through the Turkish town of Mursitpinar during the night, footage filmed overnight by Dogan News Agency showed.

The agency filmed armoured cars and military trucks on the move in Mursitpinar on Sunday (February 22) morning.

Normally, the detachment at Suleyman Shah’s tomb is rotated every six months but the last one was trapped there for eight months by Islamic State fighters.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told a news conference that Turkey had not sought permission or assistance for the mission but had informed allies in the coalition against Islamic State once it began.

The Turkish foreign ministry said the tomb had been temporarily moved to a new site within Syria north of the village of Esmesi close to the Turkish border.

Davutoglu said about 100 military vehicles, including 39 tanks, were involved along with 572 military personnel including special forces commandos. Turkish fighter jets were on alert during the mission but did not need to be deployed, he said.

There was no immediate reaction from the Syrian authorities.