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Iraqi Kurds bury activist killed in Paris attack

Iraqi Kurds attend the funeral of Emine Kara, a Kurdish woman who was killed during a shooting attack in Paris last month, in the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah in northern Iraq
— Sulaimaniyah (Iraq) (AFP)

Mourners gathered Thursday in Iraqi Kurdistan for the politically charged funeral of activist Emine Kara, one of three Kurds killed in a December attack in Paris.

Members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has been waging a decades-long insurgency against Turkey, were among the dozens at the procession in Sulaimaniyah, an AFP correspondent said.

Kara, a veteran of the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group according to relatives, and a leader of the Movement of Kurdish Women in France which has ties to the PKK, was shot dead on December 23 along with Abdurrahman Kizil and Mir Perwer.

A xenophobic gunman, William Malet, has been charged over the attack in the French capital's 10th district, home to a large Kurdish population, which also wounded three others and fomented fear in the community.

Kara's coffin was flown into Sulaimaniyah, the second-largest city of Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region, and arrived early Thursday, two days after a procession in Paris.

According to an AFP correspondent, it was brought to the Iraqi Kurdish city's Hajj Sur mosque and draped in a flag of the PKK, a group categorised by Turkey and its Western allies as a "terrorist" organisation.

A xenophobic gunman, William Malet, is suspected of killing Emine Kara and two others in a December 23 attack on the Ahmet Kaya Kurdish community centre in Paris's 10th district

The crowd chanted slogans glorifying "the martyr Evin Goyi" -- Kara's nom de guerre -- and some were waving flags with the portrait of imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, said the correspondent.

Kara's relatives said she would be buried later on Thursday in the Qandil mountains, a region north of Sulaimaniyah near the Iranian border, where the PKK has rear bases often targeted by Turkish raids.

She travelled to France in 2020 for medical treatment after fighting the IS militant group in northern Syria, her brother, Ismail al-Hajj, told AFP at the funeral.

Kara had lived in France since then even as her claim for political asylum was rejected.

She "fought against Daesh in northern Syria for five years and was wounded in the back during our battles in Kobane", Hajj said, using another term for IS.

Malet, the 69-year-old shooting suspect, told investigators he had a "pathological" hatred for foreigners and wanted to "murder migrants", prosecutors said.

But Kara's brother, much like other Kurds in Paris and in Iraqi Kurdistan, said he suspects other motives may be behind the attack at a Kurdish cultural centre and hairdressing salon.

For Hajj, it was an act of "terrorism perpetrated by the Turkish intelligence services with the help of their French counterparts" due to his sister's political activity and her "fight against the injustices suffered" by the Kurds.

Often described as the world's largest people without a state, an estimated 25-35 million Kurds are spread across Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran.

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