Three Kurdish women, who were activists of the outlawed Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK), were found shot dead in Paris. France’s interior minister spoke of an "assassination." Turkey has condemned the slaying.
According to French police, the bodies of the women were found early on Thursday inside a Kurdish information center in the 10th arrondissement of the French capital. They had gunshot wounds to the head and neck.
French Interior Minister Manuel Valls was quick to visit the location of the crime and said he was sure the killings were "assassinations," without speculating on details of a possible political motivation for the crime.
French anti-terror police have opened a probe into the deaths.
One of the dead in the Paris center was Sakine Cansiz, who has been described by the Federation of Kurdish Associations in France as a founding member of the PKK, an organization fighting for Kurdish autonomy, which is banned in Turkey and elsewhere as a terrorist group.
The other two victims were Fidan Dogan, an employee at the center, who was also the Paris representative of the Brussels-based Kurdistan National Congress and Leyla Soylemez, who was identified by the federation as a "young activist." The three were last seen alive midday on Wednesday at the location where their bodies were found.
Hundreds of Kurds gathered Thursday in front of the center to protest the deaths, demanding an in-depth investigation.
In Turkey, Huseyin Celik, the deputy chairman of Turkey's ruling party, told reporters that the attack appeared to be the result of "an internal feud" within the PKK.
The murders came after Turkish media reported Wednesday that the government and jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan had agreed on a roadmap to end the insurgency that has claimed more than 40,000 lives since 1984, when the PKK escalated its attacks against the government.
Turkish government spokesperson Bulent Arinc condemned the attack.
"This is utterly wrong," he said. "I express my condolences."
Speaking from Senegal, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the slaying could be a "provocation" meant to derail the peace talks between the two groups. He refrained from making further comments about the incident.
It has meanwhile been established that Cansiz had links to Germany. She was reportedly heading the Hamburg division of the Kurdish organization "Kongra Gel," the successor in Germany to the PKK after it was outlawed in 1993. Cansiz was arrested in Berlin in 2007 on a Turkish arrest warrant, but then released after the German courts refused to extradite her to Turkey.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has in the past accused France and Germany of obstructing his government's fight against the PKK.
An estimated 150,000 Kurds live in France; 500,000 to 800,000 live in Germany. The vast majority of them are Turkish nationals.
rg/kms (AFP, AP, dpa)