PKK founder among victims shot in Paris

Fri, Jan 11, 2013, 00:00

French police are seeking a motive for the killing of three Kurdish women, including a founding member of the Kurdish militant group the PKK, who were shot dead in an execution-style attack in Paris.

The victims’ bodies were discovered early yesterday morning when police forced their way into a Kurdish information centre near the Gare du Nord after one of the women was reported missing. All three were shot in the upper body, according to reports.

Among the dead was Sakine Cansiz, a founding member of the PKK, or Kurdistan Workers Party, which is fighting for greater Kurdish autonomy in the Turkish southeast.

France and Turkey condemned the killings, which came at a sensitive point in the conflict between the Turkish state and the PKK, which has caused up to 40,000 deaths over the past 25 years.

Ankara recently announced that it had reopened talks with Abdullah Ocalan, the PKK leader who is in prison near Istanbul, a move that raised tensions in both camps.

A senior figure in Turkey’s ruling AK Party speculated that the killings were the work of rejectionist Kurdish elements, but Kurdish activists suggested they were carried out by Turkish forces who wanted to derail the talks. Any Turkish government contacts with the PKK, deemed a terrorist group by Ankara, Washington and the EU, are controversial in the Turkish political establishment.

“Extra-judicial killings”

Turkish nationalist militants have in the past been accused of “extrajudicial killings” of Kurdish activists, but such incidents have been confined to Turkey.

Police believe the three women – Ms Cansiz, Fidan Dogan (28) and Leyla Soeylemez (25) – were shot dead on Wednesday afternoon.

There were no signs of a break-in at the centre’s second-floor office, according to reports, while a representative of the Federation of Kurdish Associations in France, Leon Edart, told the BFM news channel that there were no CCTV cameras in the office.

The Firat news agency, which is close to the PKK, said one of the victims was the Paris representative of the Brussels-based Kurdistan National Congress. It said the murder weapon was believed to have been fitted with a silencer.

As members of Paris’s large Kurdish community protested near the centre, shouting slogans including “We are all the PKK”. French interior minister Manuel Valls said homicide and anti-terrorism officers were investigating the murders, which were, he said, “undoubtedly an execution”. “Be assured that the French authorities are determined to get to the bottom of these intolerable acts,” he said after visiting the crime scene.

“Horrific”

President François Hollande described the killings as “horrible”, adding that one of the victims was “known to me and many politicians as she came to see us regularly”.

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,” he said during a visit to Senegal. “This could be a provocative undertaking by these people.”

The Kurdish question has taken on an urgency with the rise of Kurdish groups in neighbouring northern Iraq, where they control an autonomous zone, and in Syria. Turkey fears Syrian president Bashar al-Assad could encourage Kurds to feed militancy in Turkey.