The execution-style killings of three female Kurdish activists in Paris early Thursday comes just days after Turkish media reported significant progress in talks between a jailed rebel leader and senior Turkish intelligence officials, the Voice of America reports.
News reports identified one of the women as Sakine Cansiz, a founding member of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, which has waged an armed campaign for self-rule against the Turkish state since 1984. The conflict has claimed 40,000 lives.
Another victim in Paris was Fidan Dogan, a representative in France of the Brussels-based Kurdistan National Committee, a lobbying group. The third woman was Leyla Soylemez, a young Kurdish activist.
Turkish officials said the murders could be aimed at derailing new peace talks seeking to end the decades-old conflict with PKK rebels.
Early last week, officials close to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that senior intelligence officials had been meeting with imprisoned PKK chief Abdullah Öcalan at his island jail near Istanbul.
In the last few days, Turkish media began reporting on the emergence of a four-stage plan to halt the conflict. One part of the possible deal could involve releasing thousands of people accused of PKK links held in prison. Neither side has confirmed the reports.
A previous round of negotiations with the PKK in Oslo was highly secretive and appeared to have faltered.
In recent months, Turkey's conflict with the rebel group has escalated. Since large-scale hostilities resumed in summer 2011, more than 800 people have died, the highest casualty rate since the late 1990s, according to reports.
The Turkish army has staged more than 1,000 raids in the past eight months against the PKK, branded by the United States and the European Union as a terrorist organization.
When Turkey captured PKK leader Öcalan in 1999 and cut most of the group's links to states offering support or safe-haven, the PKK countered by founding sister organizations, such as the PYD in Syria and PJAK in Iran, beginning in 2002.
Despite denials, the splinter groups are all PKK-run, said Ihsan Bal, an Ankara-based security specialist.
"[In] the case of PJAK, Iranian Kurds are involved, and, obviously, with the PYD in Syria, the Syrian Kurds are involved, but the main instigator and [effective] leadership is the PKK," he said.
European and American officials say the groups are loosely funded through the PKK's network of voluntary contributions from sympathizers in Turkey and the European Kurdish diaspora, as well as extortion, drug trafficking and kidnapping.
The PKK reportedly raises up to $25 million annually from the diaspora, but its main funding comes from within Turkey itself. The money is used for everything from armed operations to TV stations and European lobbying efforts.