A Turkish official informed Asharq Al-Awsat that the operation may have been an attempt from inside the PKK to derail peace talks with Ankara. Turkey is currently holding talks with jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan to push for its disarmament in return for improving the Kurdish community’s situation in the country. Experts in Kurdish affairs have stated that there are several hypotheses regarding the motive behind attack, including internal conflict within the PKK, personal motives or even an attempt by the Turkish ultra-nationalist “Grey Wolves” youth organization to incite chaos within the PKK ranks.
The three victims were PKK founder Sakine Cansiz, Kurdish Information Centre Media director Fidan Dogan and Kurdish activist Leyla Soylemez. The three Kurdish activists were reportedly shot in the head, whilst the French police believe that the murder weapon was fitted with a silencer. French investigators gave no immediate indication as to who might be behind the murders.
The PKK issued a statement on Friday saying that it would hold France responsible if it failed to get to the bottom of the attack. An official statement on the website of the armed wing of the PKK read “The targeting of three of our female comrades at a time like this is a premeditated, planned and organized attack. France has a responsibility to elucidate these killings immediately. Otherwise, they will be held responsible for the massacre of our comrades.”
French Interior Minister Manuel Valls, speaking at the scene of the crime on Thursday, stressed “rest assured that French authorities are determined to get to the bottom of these unbearable acts”, adding that this was “without a doubt an execution.”
For his part, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said that while investigations into the murders need to be completed before a definitive conclusion can be reached, evidence so far points to an inside job, particularly as the building was secured by a coded look which could only be opened by insiders.
The state-run Anatolian news agency quoted Erdogan as saying “those three people opened it. No doubt, they wouldn’t open it to people they didn’t know.” Whilst Huseyin Celilk, deputy chairman of Turkey’s ruling party, opined that the attack appeared to be the result of “an internal feud.”
French Kurdish sources informed Asharq Al-Awsat that the district where this crime took place enjoys 24-hour CCTV coverage and round-the-clock security. The source added that France’s Kurdish community is “shocked” and demanding that the French authorities “take what happened seriously.”
The French Kurdish source also revealed that a senior French counter-terrorist official that 8 French security commissioners had been tasked with monitoring Kurdish groups in France.
Immediately following the announcement of the murders, a crowd of Kurds gathered behind police lines at the Paris Kurdish institute, chanting slogans and waving yellow flags bearing the likeness of Abdullah Ocalan. They chanted “we are all the PKK” and “The Turks are killers and Hollande is their partner.”
A Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman comprehensively denied any Turkish involvement in the assassination, informing Asharq Al-Awsat that such accusations “are not based on any facts or realities.”
Whilst senior Turkish presidential adviser Arshet Hormozlo told Asharq Al-Awsat that the attack “was either score-settling or an attempt to derail the peace talks.” He added “it is premature to make any accusations at this point, but what happened recently regarding the openness in the Kurdish issue it is as if this operation was an attempt to derail the peace talks.” Hormozlo also asserted that assassination operations “are not a practice of Turkey, which is a state of institutions, whilst this is also not in Turkey’s interests at a time when it is pursuing an approach of democratic openness in the Kurdish file.”
Sakine Cansiz was a senior member of the PKK, leading the Kurdish protest movement inside Turkey’s infamous Diyarbakir prison and then taking up the armed struggle upon her release, fighting in northern Iraq under the command of Osman Ocalan. She later took control of the group’s civil affairs in Europe. A 1995 picture shows her standing next to PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, dressed in battle fatigues and clutching an assault rifle.