Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has confirmed reports that Turkey has sent 300 troops into neighboring Syria to guard the tomb of a leading Turkish figure believed to be under threat from radical Islamist rebels, according to Today's Zaman.
The Turkish military force, which also included several armored vehicles, is being sent to bolster a small existing unit at the tomb of Süleyman Shah, grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire.
The move - which essentially amounts to a limited military intervention in wore-torn Syria - should come as no surprise, after secret conversations were leaked online in which leading Turkish political and military figures can be heard discussing military intervention in Syria to protect the tomb from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). ISIS, a radical breakaway faction of Al Qaeda, has taken advantage of the chaos to implement its puritanical version of Islam in some areas of northern Syria.
The leaked conversations prompted a ban on Youtube in Turkey.
Turkey's escalating intervention is not the first time a neighboring country has sent troops into Syria to protect its interests, using threats to Islamic shrines as a pretext.
Shia Islamist fighters from Lebanon's Hezbollah and a variety of other Iranian-backed Lebanese and Iraqi militias have played a prominent role in backing the regime of Bashar al-Assad, having initially justified their intervention as a way of protecting Shia Muslim shrines deemed heretical by Sunni Islamist rebels.