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3 Kurdish activists slain in Paris

| Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013, 8:06 p.m.
AFP/Getty Images
CORRECTING IDENTIFICATION A combination of three handout pictures released on January 10, 2013 by the Kurdish Institute shows undated photos Sakine Cansiz (R), Fidan Dogan (L) and Leyla Soylemez (C), the three Kurdish women shot dead on January 9 at the Kurdish Institute in Paris. The bodies of the women were found shortly before 2:00 am (0100 GMT) on January inside the building in the 10th arrondissement of the French capital. One of the women was 32-year-old Fidan Dogan who worked in the institute's information centre, according to its director, Leon Edart. The identities of the other two women, who were reportedly Kurdish activists but did not work at the Institute, were not immediately available. RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT 'AFP PHOTO / KURDISH INSTITUTE' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTSHO/AFP/Getty Images

PARIS — Three Kurdish activists, including one of the founding members of a militant separatist group, were shot dead in what authorities called an “execution” in central Paris. The slayings prompted speculation that the long-running conflict between insurgents from the minority group and Turkey was playing out on French shores.

Turkey has been holding peace talks with the Kurdistan Workers Party, which seeks self-rule for Kurds in the country's southeast, to try to persuade it to disarm. The conflict between the group, known as the PKK, and the Turkish government has claimed tens of thousands of lives since 1984.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at a news conference in Senegal on Thursday that his country was determined to press ahead with the talks despite what happened in Paris, which he suggested could be the result of internal strife or an act to sabotage the talks.

Turkey, the United States and the European Union consider the PKK a terrorist organization. The PKK does have a history of internal killings. But many Kurdish activists and militants were victims of extra-judicial killings blamed on Turkish government forces in the 1990s.

Initial reports pointed to a grisly crime scene.

Sakine Cansiz, a founding member of the PKK who had been living in exile in France for years, was found dead in the early hours of Thursday in a Kurdish documentation center on the first floor of an apartment building near the Gare du Nord train station.

Fidan Dogan, the 32-year-old Paris representative of the Brussels-based Kurdistan National Congress, and Leyla Soylemez, a younger activist were also killed.

One Kurdish organization said the door of the building where the women were found was smeared with blood, that two of the women were shot in the neck and one in the stomach and that the killer used a silencer.

The killings set off a round of accusations, with each side accusing the other of being behind the deaths. Police tried to contain hundreds of Kurds who flocked to the building in eastern Paris where the bodies were found. Many pointed a finger at Turkey.

“Down with the fascist regime in Turkey” and “We are all PKK,” the crowd shouted as the bodies were removed from the building amid tight security.

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