A senior female founder of the PKK militant group was assassinated together with two other Kurdish women in Paris, the French Interior Ministry said, as Turkish officials hold peace talks with the group to end its decades-long fight for autonomy.
“Three women were killed, assassinated, in an office of this Kurdish group,” Interior Minister Manuel Valls said on France Info radio today, describing the killings as “unacceptable.”
Sakine Cansiz, a founding member of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, was shot in the head in an attack on the Kurdistan Information Bureau, Turkey’s Hurriyet daily said in a report.
Turkey has been talking to imprisoned PKK chief Abdullah Ocalan to seek an end to the fighting. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said today that Turkey would continue to talk to those who seek peace. The PKK, considered a terrorist organization by U.S. and the European Union, has been fighting for autonomy in the Kurdish-dominated southeast since 1984. The conflict between the group, founded in 1978, and the state of Turkey has left 40,000 people dead.
“There is a high suspicion that it is a terror-related act,” said Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre, a spokeswoman for the Paris prosecutor’s office, in a phone interview. The women, all killed by gunshots, were found at about 1:30 a.m. by the boyfriend of one of the victims worried by her failure to return home, she said. The crime was committed on rue Lafayette in a northern neighborhood of the French capital near Gare du Nord.
Erdogan left open who might be responsible for the attack.
“It could be an internal score settling,” he said during a televised press conference in Senegal. “It could also be a provocation by those who do not want us to record progress in this process. We will keep taking steps with goodwill until we achieve results.”
The PKK put the blame on Turkey and vowed to avenge the deaths, the pro-Kurdish Firat News Agency said on its website.
Cansiz is the highest-ranking PKK official to be assassinated in Europe so far, Hurriyet newspaper said, without citing anyone. She was one of five founding members of the PKK in 1978.
She spent 20 years in prison before her release in 1991 when she rejoined the PKK, Hurriyet said. Tahsin Burcuoglu, Turkish ambassador to Paris, said “whoever did it, locked the door” before leaving, Hurriyet said. French police had to break down the door, the paper said, citing Burcuoglu.
“In Turkey there is the deep state, a state within the state,” Songul Karabulut from the foreign relations committee of the Kurdish National Committee told reporters in Paris. “There are forces that don’t accept the talks between Ocalan and the Turkish state” and that don’t want a peaceful solution.
The Turkish embassy in Paris asked the French authorities to increase security around Turkish diplomatic missions in the country, the state-run Anatolia news agency said.
The two other victims were named by the prosecutor’s office as Fidan Dogan, head of the cultural institute, and Leyla Soylemez, a Kurdish activist.