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Kurdish activists shot dead in Paris

PARIS — Angry Kurds on Thursday pointed their fingers at Turkey following the killing in Paris of three Kurdish activists, including a founding member of the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), Sakine Cansiz.

Cansiz, who had been living in exile in France for years, was found dead in the early hours of Thursday in a Kurdish documentation center on the first floor of an apartment building near the Gare du Nord train station.

Two other women — Fidan Dogan, the 32-year-old Paris representative of the Brussels-based Kurdistan National Congress, and Leyla Soylemez, a younger activist — also died. Police said the three women had been shot in the head.

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The Turkish and French governments condemned the attacks, which came just after the Ankara government had begun disarmament talks with jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan.

The conflict between the banned nationalist group and the state has claimed more than 40,000 lives since the PKK took up arms in 1984 to demand independence or, at a minimum, a large degree of autonomy for ethnic Kurds.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he hoped the killings would not jeopardize the talks. He said the attack could have been carried out either as part of an internal PKK feud, or by dissidents opposed to the negotiations. Analysts said hardliners on either side could be responsible.

Government spokesman Bulent Arinc spoke of an “atrocity” and a “deplorable act.”

Interior Minister Manuel Valls, who visited the scene, said the women appeared to have been summarily executed and pledged France’s determination to get to the bottom of the “unacceptable” attack. Antiterrorism investigators are assisting in the probe.

The leaders of Turkey’s BDP Kurdish party called on France to thoroughly investigate “the massacre.”

Hundreds of members of the close-knit Kurdish community flocked to the scene on hearing the news. Some waved flags bearing the image of jailed PKK leader Ocalan.

While the motive for the killings is still unknown, many pointed a finger at Turkey.

“Down with the fascist regime in Turkey” and “We are all PKK,” the crowd shouted as the bodies were removed from the building amid tight security.

The attack is the first of its kind targeting PKK activists in France. The Kurdistan National Congress lobbies European politicians on behalf of the PKK, which is regarded as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

“We’re really shocked that something like this could happen in the middle of Paris,” Leon Edart, head of the Federation of Kurdish Associations in France, told dpa. “It’s a political assassination,” he said.

Huseyin Celik, spokesman for Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), said it “looks like a settling of scores” within the PKK — a theory rejected by Kurdish leaders.

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The women’s bodies were discovered by friends who became concerned after failing to make contact with them on Wednesday afternoon. Finding the door of the center locked, they eventually broke down the door.

Kurdish groups have called for a mass demonstration to take place in Paris on Saturday.

There are more than 25 million Kurds living in Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria. They are a majority in southeast Turkey, where they accuse authorities of systematic discrimination.

Many in the roughly 150,000-strong French Kurdish community have Turkish origins.

Cansiz received asylum in France after being arrested and reportedly tortured in Turkey in the 1980s.

She was the “figurehead of the Kurdish women’s fight for freedom,” said Civaka Azad, a Frankfurt-based Kurdish outreach center.

Edart said she had been due to take a train to Germany on Wednesday.

Distributed by MCT Information Services
 

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