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Three female Kurdish activists slain in Paris

January 10, 2013|By Kim Willsher
  • Three female Kurdish activists were found shot dead in Paris early Thursday, including Sakine Cansiz, left, a co-founder of the militant PKK organization. The others were Fidan Dogan, center, and Leyla Soylemez, right.
Three female Kurdish activists were found shot dead in Paris early Thursday,… (Agence France-Presse /…)

PARIS -- Three female Kurdish activists were found dead Thursday at an information center for Kurds in Paris, all of them shot in the head in what a French official described as execution-style killings.

The victims included Sakine Cansiz, a co-founder of the militant nationalist Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK. Interior Minister Manuel Valls said the deaths were "no doubt executions" and called them "intolerable."

The three women were last seen inside the information center of the Kurdish Institute in north Paris about noon Wednesday.

The alarm was raised by a member of the Kurdish community who became worried after failing to reach one of the women on her cellphone. Friends visited the center and, after seeing traces of blood on the locked door of the unmarked office on the first floor, broke in and found the three bodies in the early hours of Thursday.

Valls, visiting the center later Thursday morning, said France's anti-terrorist brigade had been called to investigate and pledged that authorities would do all they could to "shed light on this act."

The PKK, which demands greater autonomy for Turkish Kurds, is regarded by the U.S. and the European Union as a terrorist organization.

In addition to Cansiz, the victims were identified as Fidan Dogan, 32, who worked in the information center and was Paris representative of the Brussels-based Kurdistan National Congress, and Leyla Soylemez, described by the Kurdish center as "a young activist."

About 45,000 people have died in the 28-year conflict between Turkey and the PKK, but Turkish media have reported that Ankara has reached an agreement with the jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan aimed at bringing an end to the hostilities.

In September, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused France and Germany of obstructing his nation's fight against the PKK. However, Erdogan's government recently revealed that talks had been held with Ocalan, imprisoned  since his capture in 1999.

Investigators say they are looking at various theories about the killing of the three women, including a settling of scores between rival Kurdish groups and the activities of an extreme-right Turkish group known as the Grey Wolves. They are also investigating whether the shootings were politically motivated.

A police source speaking on condition of anonymity said: "The scene suggests that this was an execution, but the investigation will have to establish the precise circumstances of this drama."

Kurdish demonstrators gathered outside the information center, near the Gare du Nord, shouting: "Turkey: assassinates! Hollande: accomplice!" Francois Hollande is the president of France.

In an interview with France 24 television, Armel Taverdin, a lawyer for one of the victims, said that at least two of the women had been under surveillance by the French police.

"This triple murder was fomented by the forces opposed to a solution to Kurdistan, the forces who are looking for a provocation," Taverdin said.

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