French police say three Kurdish activists, including a founding member of the PKK militant group, have been shot to death in Paris, in what the French interior minister has termed an “assassination.”
Police said Thursday that the bodies of three women were found with bullet wounds in the early morning hours in a Kurdish information center. 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.
The second slain woman was 32-year-old Frida Dogan, an employee at the information center and the Paris representative of the Brussels-based Kurdistan National Congress. The third victim was Leyla Soylemez who has been described as a “young activist.” Police say they have opened a murder investigation.
The director of the information center told reporters the last time the women were seen alive was midday on Wednesday. Friends of the victims went to the center looking for the women after their calls went unreturned.
French Interior Minister Manuel Valls visited the scene of the crime Thursday and said the deaths are “unacceptable.”
“I came here, to this neighborhood where three women were slain, killed, doubtless executed. This is a very grave matter and this explains my presence. This is unacceptable. The investigation is only starting under the authority of the prosecutor's office and the anti-terrorist forces are involved to shed all possible light on this unacceptable act.”
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.
Experts on the Kurdish movement say possible motives for the killings range from internal fighting within the PKK to being the work of Turkish agents or extremists.
The killings come on the heels of Turkish press reports claiming 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 nation's southeast.