Turkish forces leave ancient tomb in Syria

Story highlights

  • The 700-year-old remains of Suleyman Shah are moved from a tomb in northern Syria
  • In recent months, ISIS started taking over villages and towns surrounding the tomb

About 40 Turkish soldiers watching over the Tomb of Suleyman Shah in northern Syria have been evacuated amid the continuing security crisis, Turkish officials said.

“The ongoing conflict and state of chaos in Syria posed serious risks to safety and security of the tomb, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

One soldier was killed in an accident, a Turkish government official said. No other details were released.

The tomb is 37 kilometers (23 miles) from Turkey, near the Euphrates River.

Even though the tomb is in Syria, it is considered a Turkish exclave. Shah, the grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire, reportedly died near the Euphrates River in the 13 century.

As part of the Treaty of Ankara in 1921, Turkey was allowed to keep the tomb in Syria, raise a Turkish flag over it and place guards at the white marble mausoleum.

Last March, when ISIS began to take villages and towns surrounding the tomb, Turkey deployed special forces soldiers to guard it.

But on Saturday night, even they had to leave — along with Shah’s coffin.

The tomb and the sarcophagus were temporarily moved to a new site within Syria close to the Turkish borders, the Foreign Ministry said. It said the new site has the same acreage as the previous one.

“The temporary relocation of the tomb, conducted on the basis of security assessments, does not constitute any change on the status of the tomb and its annex stated by the agreements,” it said.

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