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3 Kurdish Activists Shot Dead in Paris

  • VOA News

Women react inside the Kurdish cultural center in Paris, January 10, 2013.

Women react inside the Kurdish cultural center in Paris, January 10, 2013.

French police say three Kurdish activists, including a founding member of the Kurdistan Workers' Party militant group, have been shot to death in Paris in what the French interior minister has termed an "assassination."

French Interior Minister Manuel Vals was greeted by protests from France's Kurdish community as he arrived at the Kurdish information center in central Paris, just hours after the killings. He said he hopes a police inquiry will advance quickly.

The Kurdistan Workers Party ( PKK):

  • founded in 1974 by Abdullah Ocalan
  • Marxist-Leninist separatist organization
  • took up arms against Turkey in 1984; more than 40,000 people have been killed since
  • most of the violence has been in Turkey's southeast
  • listed as a terrorist group by Turkey, the US and EU
  • has declared several short lived cease-fires
One of the victims was identified as Sakine Cansiz, one of the founding members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, a group fighting for greater Kurdish autonomy in Turkey since the 1980s.

One of the other two victims worked at the information center, and the third has been identified as a "young activist."

Motive speculation

The shootings come amid resumed talks between the PKK and the Turkish government, and there is speculation they were politically motivated.

The Associated Press quotes a senior member of Turkey's ruling party as blaming the killings on an internal feud in the PKK.

In an interview with VOA, Kendal Nezan, head of the Kurdish Institute in Paris -- which is separate from the information center - suggested the killings could be authored by those against the talks in Turkey.

The Victims

  • Sakine Cansiz - Founding member of the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK
  • Fidan Dogan - Worked at the Information Center for Kurdistan, Paris representative of the Brussels-based Kurdistan National Congress
  • Leyla Soylemez - Kurdish activist working in Paris
"It's quite possible that some of those hardliners, including inside the Turkish military or… services… or maybe the hardliners within the PKK are not very happy with this event, so they might want to sabotage the peace process," Nezan said.

"But for us, it is too early to give any accurate indication. It's going to be the work of the French police to see who are the authors and how they acted," he said.

Between 150,000 and 200,000 Kurds live in France, mostly in the Paris area.

Among other issues, French justice officials have reportedly investigated allegations of extortion within the community - or so-called "revolutionary taxes" - on behalf of the PKK.

Kurdish activists and exiles gathered at the information center Thursday, expressing solidarity with the chant "We are all PKK!" They also chanted slogans accusing the Turkish government of killing the women and accusing French President Francois Hollande of complying.

The killings come on the heels of Turkish press reports saying jailed Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan has reached an agreement with the Turkish government to end a 28-year Kurdish insurgency that has taken tens of thousands of lives in the country's southeast.