Turkey PKK: Thousands at memorial ceremony near Paris

Mourners gather at Villiers le Bel, north of Paris, for a memorial ceremony for the three Kurdish women shot dead last week, 15 January  Hundreds of people gathered for the memorial ceremony at Villiers le Bel

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Thousands of Kurds have attended a memorial near Paris for three activists shot dead in the city, amid reports of Turkish air strikes on the PKK.

Carrying flags and posters of the three dead women, they followed the coffins across frozen ground to a community centre where they were put on display.

The victims, a senior official in the separatist PKK group and two political activists, will be buried in Turkey.

Jets reportedly bombed PKK targets in Iraq despite peace talks.

Turkish intelligence officials have been talking to Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party), on how to end their armed campaign.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said his government would never surrender to Kurdish militants but he was cautiously hopeful that the talks could succeed.

Last year saw some of the heaviest fighting with the PKK in decades.

The group, regarded by the US and EU as a terrorist organisation, launched an armed campaign for an ethnic Kurdish homeland in south-east Turkey in 1984.

'Completely devastated'

Mystery still shrouds the deaths of Sakine Cansiz - who founded the PKK along with Ocalan - and Fidan Dogan and Leyla Saylemez.

The three women were found shot execution-style at a Kurdish centre in the French capital on Thursday.

Paris shooting victims

Composite image of PKK activists Fidan Dogan (l), Leyla Soylemez (c), and Sakine Cansiz (r)
  • Sakine Cansiz (R): Founding member of the PKK, and first senior female member of the organisation; while jailed, led Kurdish protest movement out of Diyarbakir prison in Turkey in 1980s; after being released, worked with PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan in Syria; was a commander of the women's guerrilla movement in Kurdish areas of northern Iraq; later took a lower profile and became responsible for the PKK women's movement in Europe
  • Fidan Dogan (L): Paris representative of the Brussels-based Kurdistan National Congress (KNC) political group; responsible for lobbying the EU and diplomats on behalf of the PKK via the KNC
  • Leyla Saylemez (C): Junior activist working on diplomatic relations and as a women's representative on behalf of the PKK

No group has said it killed the three women while Mr Erdogan has suggested their deaths may have been intended to sabotage peace efforts.

According to news agencies, thousands of Kurds travelled to the Parisian suburb of Villiers Le Bel to honour the dead.

The coffins stood draped in Kurdish flags inside the community centre amid flowers and burning candles.

"All the Kurdish people are completely devastated by this drama, these three women who have been murdered," a mourner told Reuters news agency.

"Today we are waiting for French authorities, the interior minister and the minister of foreign affairs to truly clarify what happened, why these women were targeted."

Reports say Turkish jets bombed suspected PKK targets on Mount Qandil in northern Iraq on Monday. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Speaking in the Turkish parliament, Prime Minister Erdogan said: "Violence and terror have brought nothing to this country but pain, blood and tears.

"Believe me, we have one goal: that is to halt the mothers' tears."

Since the conflict began, more than 40,000 people have been killed.

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