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French police arrest suspect in killing of Kurdish activists

By CNN Staff
January 21, 2013 -- Updated 1853 GMT (0253 HKT)
Three Kurdish victims Sakine Cansiz (left), Fidan Dogan (center) and Leyla Sonmez who were shot dead in Paris.
Three Kurdish victims Sakine Cansiz (left), Fidan Dogan (center) and Leyla Sonmez who were shot dead in Paris.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Prosecutors say the suspect is a Turkish national
  • The killing of three activists earlier this month shocked the Kurdish community
  • Last week thousands took to the streets in Turkey to mourn the slayings

Paris (CNN) -- Police in France have arrested a man in connection with the killing of three Kurdish activists in Paris this month, prosecutors said Monday.

The suspect, Omer Guney, is a 30-year-old Turkish national who, prosecutors said, has been a member of the Kurdish nationalist PKK for two years -- the same group co-founded by one of the victims.

The activists' apparent assassination earlier this month sparked shock in the Kurdish community. Mystery had swirled around the slayings, with no claim of responsibility or any indication from authorities as to who might have pulled the trigger.

The fact that one of the women was a founding member of the PKK, the Kurdish Workers' Party -- a group viewed by Turkey, the United States and others as a terror organization -- led to heightened speculation.

The killings come at a delicate time for Kurds in Turkey, where analysts say the government has recently entered into talks with Kurdish leaders -- among them the jailed head of the PKK, Abdullah Ocalan.

Analysts have suggested the attack could have been an attempt to derail a nascent peace process in what is one of the Middle East's longest-running conflicts.

The PKK, a pan-Kurdish nationalist movement, is best known internationally for the guerrilla war it has fought for nearly three decades against the government of Turkey, a conflict that has claimed more than 40,000 lives.

The ethnic Kurdish population extends across parts of Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq.

Last week thousands took to the streets in the predominantly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir, Turkey, to mourn the activists' deaths.

The women were saluted as the "three flowers of Kurdistan" by a mourner using a sound system atop a bus, while some carried portraits of the victims or signs reading "Sakine Cansiz is immortal."

Cansiz, one of the three killed, was a co-founder of the PKK.

Also killed were Leyla Sonmez and Fidan Dogan. French authorities said the bodies of the three women were discovered in the Information Center of Kurdistan in Paris.

After the killings, French Interior Minister Manuel Valls told reporters in Paris the three women had been "without doubt executed" and described the killings as "totally unacceptable."

CNN's Dheepthi Namasivayam, Laura Smith-Spark, Ivan Watson, Alexander Felton and Gul Tuysuz contributed to this report.

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