AA image of Syria tomb switch wins global attention

Anadolu Agency photographer Firat Yurdakul captured historic image of Turkish troops' secret nighttime operation inside Syria.

An Anadolu Agency photo taken during the snap Turkish military operation in Syria on Saturday has won international attention, with observers comparing it to the iconic WWII image of U.S. troops raising a flag on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima.

The photograph, taken by Firat Yurdakul, shows Turkish soldiers raising the national flag in the Ashme region of Aleppo on Saturday where the new tomb of Suleyman Shah -- grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire -- will be placed.

Anadolu Agency sent its professional team to Syria to capture the "Shah Firat" military operation, which saw the small Turkish exclave, and the troops guarding it, evacuated to a location closer to Turkey’s southern border.

Yurdakul captured the historic photo which resembles Joe Rosenthal's famous WWII image.

The TIME news agency interviewed Yurdakul via email: "Without any doubt, young photojournalists like myself have common references -- Joe Rosenthal is one of them. I thought about Rosenthal’s picture as I was taking this photo,” but, Yurdakul says in the interview, it was “completely spontaneous."

Yurdakul told TIME that "it was an embedded operation... on one day we had no idea where we were going. As we were waiting at the border, Turkish soldiers, tanks and armored vehicles entered Syria."

"I don’t think the soldiers were posing for a photo. The Turkish flag has an important meaning in our society, thus they were trying to do that ritual as honorably as they could," Yurdakul added.

The Turkish Armed Forces had launched the operation into Syria to evacuate soldiers guarding the tomb of Suleyman Shah, situated in Karakozak village, northeast of Aleppo.

Turkey gained the right to guard the exclave after a 1921 agreement with France, which ruled Syria at the time, and secured another area in the war-torn country, Ashme, closer to the border with Turkey, which will eventually serve as Suleyman Shah’s burial place.

The Shah Firat military operation involved nearly 600 troops and 39 tanks.