A co-founder of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and two other activists were found shot dead Thursday in Paris, a day after Turkey and the jailed leader of the banned group were reported to have agreed on a peace plan to end a three-decade-old insurgency.
Riot police maintained order as hundreds of angry Kurds rushed to protest and chant "We are all PKK!" outside the Kurdistan Information Center in the city's 10th district where the victims were found shot in the head and neck.
According to an Al Arabiya correspondent, people were also chanting slogans against Turkey and Syria, demanding that Interior Minister Manuel Valls pursue the killers.
Valls described the killings as assassinations.
"Three women have been shot down, killed, without doubt executed," he told reporters.
Experts on the Kurdish movement said the killings could be the result of internal feuding in the PKK, personal score-settling, the work of Turkish agents or even of Turkish far-right extremists.
Kurdish activists protesting in Paris were adamant they must have been the work of Turkish agents, while Turkish officials suggested internal PKK divisions were a more likely explanation.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said it was "too soon to comment" but the incident could be a "provocation,” coming at a time when peace talks between the state and the PKK's jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan were under way.
Turkish media reported Wednesday that the Turkish government and Ocalan had agreed on a roadmap to end the insurgency that has claimed around the lives of 45,000 people, most of them Kurds.
The PKK, listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and by much of the international community, has been fighting for Kurdish autonomy or independence in southeastern Turkey since 1984.
One of the dead in the Paris center was Sakine Cansiz, a founding member of the PKK considered close to Ocalan.
A U.S. embassy report from April 2007 revealed on the Wikileaks website said that "U.S. and Turkish officials had identified Cansiz as a priority PKK leader to bring to justice.”
She was arrested in Hamburg the same year but released after the German courts refused to extradite her to Turkey.
The second slain woman in Paris was 32-year-old Fidan Dogan, an employee of the center, who was also the Paris representative of the Brussels-based Kurdistan National Congress.
The third was Leyla Soylemez, described by the federation as a "young activist.”
Ayub Doru, head of the Kurdish party in Europe, told Al Arabiya that the three women were at the Kurdish headquarters on Wednesday afternoon.
He said that members of the Kurdish community attempted to get in touch with them but were not able to do so. He added that he eventually went to the center and found traces of blood on the door, which friends and colleagues then forced open to find the three bodies inside around 2 a.m. Thursday.
Two of the women were shot in the nape of the neck while the third had wounds to her forehead and stomach, the Kurdish federation said.
Erdogan's government recently revealed that Turkish intelligence services had for weeks been talking to Ocalan, who has been held on the island prison of Imrali south of Istanbul since his capture in 1999.
Under the reported peace roadmap, the government would reward a ceasefire by granting wider rights to Turkey's Kurdish minority, whose population is estimated at up to 15 million in the 75-million nation.
The rebels also reportedly want the release of hundreds of Kurdish activists and the recognition of Kurdish identity in Turkey's new constitution.