Turkish army chief visits historic Syrian tomb
The army chief visited Turkish soldiers protecting the tomb in Syria. (AFP/Adem Altan)
Turkey's army chief General Necdet Ozel and top commanders have for the first time visited the new location of an historic tomb inside Syrian territory, the military said on Friday.
Army chief of staff Ozel and the land and air forces commanders on Thursday went inside Syria to visit the Turkish soldiers guarding the tomb of Suleyman Shah, grandfather of the Ottoman empire's founder Osman I.
The tomb lies in the settlement of Eshme, just 200 meters (650 feet) from the Turkish border and easily visible from Turkish territory.
The visit had not been announced in advance. Images on state media showed Ozel paying his respects at the tomb and then exiting the small brick-built mausoleum.
The visit came just over a month after hundreds of Turkish soldiersstaged an unprecedented incursion deep inside Syrian territory to move the tomb from its previous location, retreating from approach Islamic State (Daesh) jihadists.
The complex, which is considered sovereign Turkish territory, had been located some 37 kilometers (23 miles) inside Syrian territory.
But the government ordered the tomb, which has a permanent honor guard of Turkish troops, to be moved due to security fears as it was located in territory controlled by ISIS.
The army said that Ozel inspected the new situation of the tomb and talked to Turkish and Syrian residents in the area.
Turkey has already reburied Suleyman Shah on the site and hastily constructed the new mausoleum.
The figure of Suleyman Shah is a key figure in the still-hazy history of the emergence of the Ottoman empire, which according to tradition was founded by Osman in 1299 with Turkic tribes who had swept through Anatolia from Asia.
The tomb of Suleyman Shah, who is said to have died in 1236, is considered Turkish territory under the 1921 Treaty of Ankara between the Turkish authorities and France, which then controlled French-mandated Syria.