French security personnel secure the street after several shots were fired along rue d’Enghien in the 10th arrondissement, in Paris on December 23, 2022.
Thomas Samson | AFP | Getty Images
A gunman opened fire on a Kurdish cultural center and nearby Kurdish café in central Paris on Friday, killing three people and wounding three others, and prosecutors said they were looking into a possible racist motive for the attack.
Multiple gunshots were fired on Rue d’Enghien, sowing panic on a street lined with small shops and cafes in the capital’s busy central 10th arrondissement, or district.
Authorities said they had arrested a 69-year-old man. Paris prosecutor Laure Beccuau said the suspect had recently been freed from detention while awaiting trial for a separate sabre attack on a migrant camp in Paris a year ago. Authorities could not exclude a possible racist motive, she said.
Juan-Golan Eliberg, an artist who works at the Kurdish center, told Reuters the shooter had targeted Kurds.
Eyewitness Mehmet Dilek told Reuters he first heard gunshots and then cries coming from inside a barber’s shop opposite the cultural center. Bystanders subdued the gunman when he had to reload his firearm, Dilek added.
“It might be shocking for someone who has never had a worry in their life. But we grew up under the threat of arms and bombs, this is how life is for us Kurds,” he continued.
The incident was a “terrible drama,” district mayor Alexandra Cordebard told reporters. One of those wounded had suffered life-threatening injuries, she said.
Julien Verplancke who works at another local restaurant, Chez Minna, said staff from the Kurdish restaurant emerged from the premise in tears after the shooting.
Reuters was not immediately able to contact the suspect’s representatives. BFM TV reported the suspect was a French national.
Images broadcast on French news networks on Friday showed a white man wearing a grey top and scruffy white trainers being led away from the scene, his hands cuffed behind his back.
Several hours later, armed police were still guarding a security cordon as investigators combed the scene.
An investigation has been opened into murder, manslaughter and aggravated violence.
Salih Azad, a prominent figure from the Kurdish community in Marseille, said he knew one of the victims, a 26-year-old woman who had lived in Paris for several years.
“She was well integrated socially and culturally,” he said.
Kurdish leaders called for better protection for their community, a theme for Kurds in France since the high profile killings of three Kurdish women a decade ago.