Kurdish activists shot to death in Paris

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PARIS -- Three Kurdish activists, reportedly 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.

The slayings came as Turkey was 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 Thursday in Senegal that his country was determined to press ahead with the talks despite the events in Paris, which he suggested could be the result of internal strife or an act to sabotage the talks. The PKK does have a history of internal killings. But many Kurdish activists and militants were also victims of extrajudicial killings blamed on Turkish government forces in the 1990s.

Initial reports were contradictory but pointed to a grisly crime scene. One Kurdish organization said the door of the building where the women were found just after midnight 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. French radio reported that all three were shot in the head.

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 yesterday, many blaming Turkey and calling the deaths a "political assassination."

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