Home Intelligence Cofounder of Kurdish PKK Assassinated in Paris

Cofounder of Kurdish PKK Assassinated in Paris

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By William Tucker

Sakine Cansiz, and two other Kurdish nationalists, were killed this morning at a Kurdish information center in Paris. Cansiz was a rather well known figure in the Kurdish community, but was best known for her role in founding the Kurdish nationalist militant group Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan (PKK) – also known as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. Though there haven’t been many details released on the killings themselves, the timing of the assassinations is quite interesting. The Turkish government, with whom many Kurdish groups have been fighting, has made several attempts to broker a peace deal since the ruling AKP party came to power in Ankara. In fact, Turkish government officials recently stated that peace talks with jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan have been renewed. As there are many Turks and Kurds opposed to a peace deal, it certainly seems beyond coincidence that such a prominent figure would be targeted during this sensitive juncture. In essence, the perpetrator may not be involved with either the Turkish government or the PKK, but their interest in derailing the peace process by sowing further distrust between the two belligerents is rather profound. Bear in mind that the PKK is not representative of all Kurds and there are several competing Kurdish groups that have different agendas. For their part, the Turks also have elements opposed to talks with Kurdish nationalists.

Politics aside, the assassination does show signs of being planned and carried out by competent operatives. Strangely, however, Cansiz, an experienced militant, didn’t appear to take any noticeable precautions for her personal security, nor security for the information center. According to reports, the center didn’t have any security cameras or an alarm system in the building. Furthermore, there doesn’t appear to have been any security guards working at the location. Without these simple measures, the operatives that carried out the assassination would have had a free hand in conducting preoperational surveillance with little concern of being detected. Media reports have stated that the bodies of the victims were found in the building with the exterior doors locked. Again, this is a professional tactic. After the women were killed, the keys to the building, and any other useful intelligence, was probably secured from the victims’ bodies. Locking the door with the victim’s keys slightly slows down responding law enforcement and lengthens the window for egress. The reports of finding blood on the exterior door seems to support this speculation. Another aspect to consider thus far is the lack of any witnesses or calls to police about hearing gunshots, thus suggesting that the killings took place at an optimal time of night or that the operatives used a suppressed firearm.

A lawyer for one of the victims has stated that two of the three women were under surveillance by French law enforcement, and yet, the killings still took place. Either the lawyer is embellishing his knowledge of the facts, or the surveillance conducted by police was only done in intervals. It is possible that the operatives discovered this during preoperational surveillance, but again, this lawyer hasn’t presented any evidence to support his claims. Unfortunately, these claims can’t be dismissed just yet because the French have made several recent arrests of Kurds involved in money laundering and weapons smuggling. While there isn’t yet an apparent connection, it does show that there may be much more to this case than just a political hit to undermine peace talks.

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