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Middle East

Vowing revenge, thousands rally in Paris over Kurd killings

People hold placards reading: "This brutality will not weaken us" during a demonstration on January 12, 2013 in Paris, two days after Cansiz and two Kurdish activits were found shot dead at Paris Kurdistan Information Bureau. AFP PHOTO /ERIC FEFERBERG

PARIS: Thousands of Kurds, many coming from Germany, vowed revenge as they rallied Saturday in Paris over the killing of three top Kurdish activists from a separatist group banned in Turkey.

The march, which began at city's Gare de l'Est railway station, was emotionally charged with demonstrators saying France would be an accomplice in the brazen murders if it did not identify and punish the killers.

"This crime is a crime against the Kurdish people and against peace," said a woman demonstrator, calling for an end to the listing of the PKK as a terrorist organisation.

"The French state bears a responsibility. If the perpetrators of these crimes are not found, France will be indisputably considered as an accomplice," said a leaflet published and distributed by France's main Kurdish association Feyka.

The demonstrators, marching under grey skies and an intermittent drizzle, held banners saying "Intikam! PKK", using the Turkish word for revenge, and "The martyrs of the Revolution Are Eternal".

The dead included Sakine Cansiz, a founding member of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which took up arms in 1984 for Kurdish self-rule in southeastern Turkey and is branded a terrorist organisation by Ankara and much of the international community.

Cansiz, Fidan Dogan and Leyla Soylemez were also found dead on Thursday at the Kurdistan Information Centre in the grimy 10th district of Paris, after last being seen alive at the centre at midday on Wednesday.

They were all shot in the head, at least three times each.

The killings came days after Turkish media reported that Turkey and the PKK leadership had agreed a roadmap to end the three-decade old Kurdish insurgency that has claimed more than 45,000 lives.

The deal was reportedly reached during a new round of talks between Ankara and jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan which the government acknowledges have been taking place with the aim of disarming the rebels.

"This attack comes at a time when talks are on to find a solution to the Kurdish problem in Turkey," said Feyka.

French President Francois Hollande had said the murder was "terrible", adding that he knew one of the Kurdish women and that she "regularly met us," a comment seized by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan who on Saturday sought an explanation from Paris.

"How can he regularly meet with these people who are members of a group listed as a terrorist organisation by the European Union and who are wanted under red bulletin (issued by Interpol)?" Erdogan asked, referring to Hollande.

Erdogan said Hollande "must explain immediately to the French, Turkish and world public why ... he is in communication with these terrorists."

Experts have suggested a number of potential motives for the killings, including an attack by Turkish extremists and internal feuding within the PKK.

There are around 150,000 Kurds in France, the vast majority of them of Turkish origin.

According to the German government, there are about 800,000 Kurds living in the country of whom 13,000 are believed to be PKK members.

 

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