One of the victims, Sakine Cansiz, was “one of the founders of the PKK” – the Kurdistan Workers’ Party that has been conducting a guerrilla struggle in Turkey since 1984 – according to the Kurdish Associations Federation in France.
Another, 32-year-old Fidan Dogan, worked at the Kurdistan Information Centre, where the murders took place.
The third, Leyla Soylemez, was described as a “young activist”.
The centre, on rue La Fayette, is in an area where many Kurds live and hundreds gathered outside the building where the centre is situated when the news of the killings broke.
Among the slogans shouted by the crowd was “Turkey assassin, [President François] Hollande!”, a reference to the French government’s collaboration with Turkey in repressing PKK activity in France.
Valls visited the scene of the crime at 9.00 am and promised that the French authorities would track down the killers with “determination”.
“Three women have been shot, killed, without doubt executed,” he declared. “That’s serious and that’s why I’m here. It’s completely unacceptable.”
The three women were alone in the centre, which is on the first floor and accessible only with an entry code or by being let in, from about midday Wednesday, according to its head, Leon Edart.
When a Kurd tried to contact them and received no response, friends broke down the door after noticing bloodstains on it and discovered the bodies at 1.00 am.
Two of the women were killed by a shot to the neck, the third was shot in the stomach and forehead.
According to a 2006 study:
- There are about 150,000 Kurds in France;
- Most of them live in the Paris region, Alsace, Lorraine and around Marseille;
- Ninety per cent of them are of Turkish origin;
- There are 6,500 Iranian Kurds and 4,800 Iraqi Kurds;
- Others come from Syria, Lebanon and the former Soviet republics in the Caucasus.
The killings come amid reports that jailed PKK chief Abdullah Ocalan has reached an agreement with the Turkish government to stop attacks as from March as part of a staged end of hostilities in exchange for increased rights for Turkey’s Kurdish minority.
The vice-president of Turkey's ruling Truth and Justice Party (AKP), Huseyin Celik, claimed on Thursday that the killing appeared to be the result of internal disputes within the PKK.