Kurdish activists executed in Paris
A female founder member of the Kurdish PKK rebel group and two other female activists were shot dead in Paris overnight in execution-style killings that cast a shadow over peace moves between Ankara and the guerrillas.
The bodies of Sakine Cansiz, who promoted the role of women in the armed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) group, and the two other women were found soon after midnight in an institute in central Paris with close links to the PKK.
They appeared to have been shot in the head, a French police source said. Kurdish media said one of the women was also shot in the stomach. Workers had broken into the room in the Information Centre of Kurdistan after seeing blood stains at the door.
Ms Cansiz had been a prominent figure in the PKK before falling out with the group's factionalised leadership. A 1995 photograph shows her standing next to militant leader Abdullah Ocalan, wearing olive battle fatigues and clutching an assault rifle.
It was not immediately clear who had carried out the killings, but the PKK has seen intermittent internal feuding during an armed campaign in the mountainous Turkish southeast in which some 40,000 have been killed since 1984.
Turkish nationalist militants have in the past also been accused of "extra-judicial killings" of Kurdish activists, but such incidents have been confined to Turkey.
Among the crowd gathered behind police lines at the Paris institute today were onlookers chanting slogans and waving yellow flags bearing Ocalan's likeness.
Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan said it was too early to apportion blame.
"This may be an internal reckoning. Aside from this, we are engaged in a struggle against terrorism ... but there are people who don't want this. This could be a provocative undertaking by these people," he said during a visit to Senegal.
The killings came shortly after Turkey announced it had reopened talks with Ocalan, the PKK leader jailed on the prison island of Imrali, near Istanbul. The talks to end the conflict would almost certainly raise tensions within the movement over demands and terms of any ceasefire.
"Rest assured that French authorities are determined to get to the bottom of these unbearable acts," French interior minister Manuel Valls said at the scene, adding the killings were "surely an execution".
France is home to a large number of Kurds, many of them having emigrated in the 1960s and 1970s, and there are a number of Kurdish pro-PKK exiles such as Ms Cansiz. Other Kurdish activists have settled in Germany and Sweden.
Any Turkish government contacts with the PKK, deemed a terrorist group by Ankara, Washington and the EU, are highly controversial in the Turkish political establishment.
Last summer, the months preceding the move to talks, saw some of the worst bloodshed of the three-decades-old conflict. Television footage of soldiers' coffins returning home draped in the red Turkish flag inflamed nationalist tensions.
Mr Valls identified one of the victims as the head of the information centre and said homicide and anti-terrorism units had been assigned to investigate the murders. A police source confirmed the women's nationality as Turkish.
The two other victims were named as Fidan Dogan (28), and Leyla Soylemez (25).
"This is a political crime, there is no doubt about it," Remzi Kartal, a leader of the Kurdistan National Congress, an umbrella group of Kurdish organisations in Europe, told Reuters.
"Ocalan and the Turkish government have started a peace process, they want to engage in dialogue, but there are parties that are against resolving the Kurdish question and want to sabotage the peace process," he said.