THE co-founder of the Kurdish PKK separatist movement and two other female activists were found dead in Paris yesterday in a suspected assassination that has dealt a blow to "historic" peace talks between the group and the Turkish government.
The bodies were discovered in the early morning with gunshot wounds to the head and neck inside a Kurdish meeting centre in the busy 10th district of the French capital.
There was reportedly no sign of forced entry, suggesting the women may have let their killer in or may have known their attacker.
Visiting the crime scene, interior minister Manuel Valls said the deaths were "without doubt an execution" and denounced a "totally intolerable act".
As news of the murders spread, hundreds of shocked and angry Kurds flocked to the crime scene waving Kurdish flags and chanting: "We are all PKK" and " Turkey assassin, (President Francois) Hollande complicit".
The killings came just hours after reports that the Turkish government and the jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan had agreed on a road map to end a three-decade insurgency that has claimed about 45,000 lives.
Mr Ocalan has been serving a life sentence on a prison island south of Istanbul since 1999.
Listed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey and its Western allies, including America and the European Union, the PKK has been fighting for Kurdish independence in south-eastern Turkey since 1984.
One of the women killed was Sakine Cansiz, a founding member of the PKK.
A confidential US embassy report from April 2007 published by WikiLeaks said that "US and Turkish officials had identified Cansiz as a priority PKK leader to bring to justice". She was arrested in Berlin the same year but was released after the German courts refused to extradite her to Turkey.
A senior Kurdish source said Ms Cansiz was known to be one of Mr Ocalan's "closest confidants".
The third was Leyla Soylemez, described as a "young activist".
Experts said the killings could be the result of internal feuding in the PKK; personal score-settling; the work of Turkish agents; or even of Turkish far-Right extremists.
While Turkey swiftly condemned what it called a "summary execution", one ruling AK Party figure said it was probably the result of an internal feud. (© Daily Telegraph, London)