Turkey yesterday threatened to retaliate for any attack on the tomb of Suleyman Shah, grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire, in an area of northern Syria largely controlled by militant Islamists.

Ankara regards the tomb of Suleyman Shah as sovereign Turkish territory under a treaty signed with France in 1921, when Syria was under French rule. About two dozen Turkish special forces soldiers permanently guard the tomb.

The Turkish warning follows clashes this week between militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), an al Qaeda breakaway group, and rival rebel groups in the area of the tomb, east of Aleppo near the Turkish border.

Loading article content

ISIL and other militants, whose strict Salafi interpretation of Islam deems the veneration of tombs to be idolatrous, have destroyed several tombs and mosques in rebel-held areas.

"Any kind of attack ... will bring retaliation. In defending its sovereign territory, Turkey will take all measures necessary without any hesitation," Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said.