A hit by agents of Turkey's secret services or nationalist extremists?
Political score-settling between Kurdish radicals or a feud over extortion money?
All three were put forward Thursday as possible motives for the Paris slaying of three Kurdish women, including Sakine Cansiz, one of the founding members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
The nature of the killings -- the women were all shot in the head or the back of the neck -- led French Interior Minister Manuel Valls to describe them as an execution.
The women's bodies were discovered in the early hours at a Kurdish centre in the French capital.
The killing came a day after Turkish media reported that jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan had agreed the outlines of a deal with the authorities in Ankara that could lead to the rebel movement laying down its weapons in March.
In return, the Kurds would receive guarantees their cultural identity would be protected and jailed Kurdish leaders would be set free.
Such a deal would be highly controversial, both among hardline Turkish nationalists and sections of the PKK opposed to any compromise with Ankara, according to analysts.
Kurdish activists protesting in Paris after news of the killings broke were adamant they must have been the work of Turkish agents, while Turkish officials suggested internal PKK divisions were a more likely explanation.
Didier Billion, an expert on Turkey and the Kurds at the Paris-based Institute for International and Strategic Relations (IRIS), was sceptical about the possible involvement of Turkey.
"I can't see the interest of the Turkish state in eliminating these three activists," Billion told AFP, suggesting internal PKK divisions were a more likely motive.
"We know that there is a radical faction within the PKK that is opposed to any dialogue. You can't rule out the theory of this being the work of people opposed to a deal between Ocalan and Turkey."
The PKK raises funds through a "revolutionary tax" on Kurdish expatriates that authorities in several countries have condemned as extortion.
Several PKK leaders have also been designated as drugs traffickers by the United States.
Dorothee Schmid, director of Turkey studies at the French Institute for International Relations, described Cansiz as "close to Ocalan, one of his mouthpieces."
That may have made her a target for opponents of the nascent peace process, either from elements of the Turkish state or from radicals in the PKK, she argued.
"There is, in Turkey, a kind of state within the state with a mix of ultra-nationalist activists, the secret services, the mafia and the army," Schmid said.
"We have seen an increase in nationalism in Turkey. There are lots of people opposed to an accord with the PKK.
"For the moment we don't know what is in it but there is talk of Ocalan being freed, which many Turks will find hard to swallow.
Schmid added that the killings could exacerbate tensions within the PKK over the accord being negotiated by Ocalan.
"If these assassinations give credence to the idea that the deal being discussed is in Turkey's favour, there could be a split in the leadership," she argued.
Huseyin Celik, a spokesman for Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), said the nature of the killings pointed to a PKK feud.
"We know the PKK terrorist organisation has carried out thousands of inside executions for years now," he said. "This is something inherent to terrorist organisations."
© 2013 AFP
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