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Turkey Launches Syria Raid to Evacuate Troops, Tomb

 / Updated 
Turkish army vehicles drive in a street of the Syrian town of Kobane, (aka Ain al-Arab) on February 21, 2015, during an operation to relieve the garrison guarding the Suleyman Shah mausoleum in northern Syria. The operation was jointly conducted by the intelligence organisation and the Turkish army, a few days after reports suggested that the tomb was besieged by jihadists belonging to the Islamic State (IS) group. - / AFP - Getty Images

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ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish forces swept into Syria overnight to rescue about 40 soldiers who had been surrounded for months by ISIS militants while guarding the tomb of a revered Turkish figure.

The Syrian government described the operation as act of "flagrant aggression" and said it would hold Ankara responsible for its repercussions.

The operation, which involved tanks, drones and 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 as agreed in a 1921 treaty, was relocated.

Normally, the detachment is rotated every six months but the last one was trapped there for eight months by ISIS 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 ISIS once it began.

"This was an extremely successful operation with no loss to our rights under international law," he said, flanked by the chief of the military and the defense minister.

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.

IN-DEPTH

— The Associated Press

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