Thousands have gathered in Turkey for the funeral of three female Kurdish activists killed in Paris last week. Politicians have expressed concern the murders could derail peace talks between Kurds and the government.
A long procession of mourners in Turkey's main Kurdish city of Diyarbakir Thursday followed hearses carrying the victims' coffins, which were later placed on platforms in a square on the outskirts of the city.
Tens of thousands more were expected to visit throughout the day to pay their respects.
The three women, one of them Sakine Cansiz, a co-founder of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), were found shot execution-style at a Kurdish center in Paris last week. French police are still investigating the mysterious killings.
"Sakine was a historic figure of the movement [PKK]," said Ali Gokot, from the regional ranks of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), which organized the funeral. "Her death is very painful," he said.
During the event, which included women wearing white scarves for peace, there were chants of: "The martyrs' path is our path. PKK is our party! Long live leader Apo!" in reference to their jailed PKK leader, Abdullah Ocalan. He has been jailed on an island south of Istanbul since 1999.
Portraits of the women were placed in front of the coffins, with the red, yellow and green Kurdish flag and red carnations, draped over them.
Their bodies were brought home from Paris late Wednesday, escorted by thousands chanting "Martyrs will live forever" from the Diyarbakir airport to a hospital morgue.
Many fear the event could turn into a violent protest, and security forces have been placed on high alert.
Politicians are appealing for calm and urging people not to let the killings derail ongoing peace talks between the Turkish government and Ocalan aimed at ending the group's armed campaign, which has claimed some 45,000 lives in nearly three decades.
Chairman of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, Selahattin Demirtas, told the crowd that the murders would not deter Kurds from seeking peace.
Earlier Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan speculated the killings could be the result of an "internal conflict" within the PKK intended to disrupt the talks.
He urged supporters of the Kurdish cause to be cautious of possible "provocateurs who may want to sabotage the process" by disturbing the peace during the funerals.
The PKK blamed the killings on shadowy elements within the Turkish state or foreign powers, and Ocalan called through his brother on French police to solve the murders.
The bodies will be sent for burial in nearby hometowns on Friday.
dr/hc (AFP, Reuters, AP)
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