Founder of Kurdish PKK among three women slain in Paris

Thu Jan 10, 2013 1:34pm EST
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By Nicholas Vinocur and Daren Butler

PARIS/ISTANBUL (Reuters) - A woman who helped found the Kurdish PKK rebel movement and two other women were found shot dead in Paris overnight after execution-style killings that cast a shadow over peace moves between Turkey and the guerrillas.

The bodies of Sakine Cansiz, a founder of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the early 1980s, and her two fellow activists were found in the early hours of Thursday at an institute in the French capital that has close links to the PKK.

They appeared to have been shot in the head, a French police source said. Kurdish media said one woman was also shot in the abdomen. Workers had broken in to the room at the Information Centre of Kurdistan after seeing blood stains on a door.

Cansiz was a prominent PKK figure, initially as a fighter and later in charge of the group's civil affairs in Europe, according to a Kurdish lawyer who knew her. A 1995 photograph shows her standing next to militant leader Abdullah Ocalan, wearing olive battle fatigues and clutching an assault rifle.

Ocalan is now in a Turkish jail and the killings came shortly after Turkey announced it had resumed peace negotiations with him - something likely to anger hardliners within the PKK.

French investigators gave no immediate indication of who might be behind the murders; the PKK has seen intermittent internal feuding during an armed campaign in the mountainous Turkish southeast that has killed some 40,000 people since 1984.

Turkish nationalist militants have in the past also been accused of killing Kurdish activists, who want regional autonomy. But such incidents have been confined to Turkey.

"The choice of Cansiz as a target is because she was symbolic of the Kurdish movement," said Franck Cecen, a Kurdish lawyer in Paris who met Cansiz at least half a dozen times and described her as exceptionally well-spoken and well-educated.   Continued...

A member of the Kurdish community cries as she stands in front of the entrance of the Information Centre of Kurdistan in Paris, where three Kurdish women were found shot dead, January 10, 2013. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann (