A xenophobic gunman is suspected of killing two men and a woman at a Kurdish cultural center last month.

With tears and cries of “Martyrs live forever”, thousands of Kurds from all over Europe have come to the outskirts of Paris to say goodbye to three of their own dead in a December attack in the French capital.

Buses were chartered to take people from all over France and some neighboring countries to the politically charged funeral in Villiers-le-Bel, north of Paris.

The coffins of the three people – a woman and two men – were wrapped in the flags of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Kurdish-controlled Rojava area in northern Syria.

The crowd followed the funeral on giant screens set up in a parking lot, showing the coffins surrounded by wreaths under a portrait of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, who is serving a life sentence on a prison island off Istanbul.

Police and security volunteers were on duty outside a hall rented for Tuesday’s funeral.

A xenophobic gunman is suspected of killing the three Kurds on December 23. The victims were shot in and in front of the Ahmet-Kaya Center, a cultural organization for the Kurdish community in the 10th arrondissement of Paris.

The three victims were identified as Abdurrahman Kizil; singer and political refugee Mir Perwer; and Emine Kara, a leader in the Kurdish women’s movement in France.

William Malet69, was formally charged with the December 26 shooting “pathological” hatred for foreigners and wanted to “kill migrants,” prosecutors said.

Finger pointed to Turkey

Malet, a retired machinist, had previously been convicted of assault and possession of an illegal weapon. He had just left a year of captivity for a sword attack in a migrant camp.

But many Kurds in the 150,000-strong French community refuse to believe he acted alone, calling his actions a “terrorist” attack and pointing the finger at Turkey.

“The anger of the people gathered today has proven to us once again how much the Kurdish community believes these killings are political,” said a spokesman for the Democratic Council of Kurds in France.

In January 2013, three Kurdish female activists – including Sakine Cansız, a co-founder of the PKK – were shot dead near the cultural center.

Their suspected killer, Omer Guney, a Turkish national believed to have had ties to Ankara’s secret services, died in pre-trial detention in 2016 of a brain tumor in a Paris hospital.

More recently, in April, men were beaten with iron bars at a Kurdish cultural center in the eastern French city of Lyon. That attack was blamed on members of the banned Turkish ultra-nationalist group Gray Wolves.

The PKK, which has been waging an armed struggle for more rights for Turkey’s Kurdish minority for nearly four decades, has been categorized as a “terrorist” group by Ankara, the European Union and the United States.

Collisions between police and Kurdish protesters in the immediate aftermath of the December killings heightened tensions between nominal NATO allies Turkey and France.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ankara exclaimed the French ambassador to complain about “black propaganda launched by [the] PCN”.

Activists from France’s Democratic Council of Kurds have planned a march on Wednesday for the victims of the December street shooting where they were killed.

On Saturday, a “great march” of the Kurdish community, originally planned to mark the 10th anniversary of the 2013 shootings, will depart from Paris’ Gare du Nord train station.

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