A 69-year-old gunman opened fire at a Kurdish cultural center and a hairdressing salon in Paris on Friday, killing three people and injuring three others, Agence France-Presse reported, citing witnesses and prosecutors.
The shots shortly before midday (1100 GMT) caused panic in rue d’Enghien in the trendy 10th district of the capital, a bustling area of shops and restaurants that is home to a large Kurdish population.
Witnesses told AFP that the gunman, described by police as white and known for two previous attempted murders, initially targeted the Kurdish cultural center before entering a nearby hairdressing salon, where he was arrested by police.
“We saw an old white man enter, then start shooting in the Kurdish cultural center, then he went to the hairdresser’s next door,” Romain, who works in a nearby restaurant, told AFP by telephone.
Another local resident, who asked to remain anonymous, told AFP: “There were people panicking, shouting to the police and pointing to the salon, saying, ‘He’s in there, he’s in there, go in’.”
He said he saw two people on the floor of the salon with leg wounds.
The Kurdish community center, called Centre Ahmet Kaya, is used by a charity that works to integrate the Kurdish population in the Paris region.
The gunman was described by police sources as “Caucasian,” of French nationality and known for two previous attempted murders in 2016 and 2021.
His motives remain unclear, but his identity and his target immediately raised suspicions that the shooting could have been racially motivated.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin has repeatedly warned about the danger of violent far-right groups in France.
Mathilde Panot, parliamentary head of the hard-left France Unbowed political party, immediately pointed the finger at the far right, calling it a “racist attack.”
The shooter was injured and “has been taken to the hospital,” the mayor of 10th district, Alexandra Cordebard, said at the scene where police have sealed off surrounding roads.
“There are three dead, one person in intensive care and two people with serious injuries, and the suspect, who was arrested, has also been injured, notably to the face,” Paris prosecutor Laure Beccuau told reporters.
Some members of the Kurdish centre could be seen weeping and hugging each other for comfort.
“It’s starting again. You aren’t protecting us. We’re being killed!” one of them said to nearby police.
Often described as the world’s largest people without a state, the Kurds are a Muslim but non-Arab ethnic group spread across Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran that has faced persecution and violence.
Ahmet Kaya is a deceased Kurdish singer-songwriter who died in self-imposed exile in France in 2000 after he left Turkey in 1999 due to a smear campaign and death threats over his remarks stating that he wanted to make a music video for a Kurdish song.
Due to the center’s symbolic significance, some pointed out that the attack might have been instigated by actors working for the Turkish state.
#Breaking Target of this shooting in Central Paris was a Kurdish community centre. Both victims who were killed are Kurdish. The 10th anniversary of the assassination of three Kurdish women politicians by Turkish intelligence in same city is 2 weeks away. https://t.co/iETcy2qxiN
— Giran Ozcan (@GiranOzcan) December 23, 2022
Outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK) founding member Sakine Cansız, Kurdistan Information Bureau (KNK) Paris representative Fidan Doğan and Leyla Söylemez, who was a member of the Kurdish youth movement, were murdered in their Paris bureau on Jan. 9, 2013. Suspect Ömer Güney died in prison on Dec. 17, 2016, a few weeks before his trial at the Paris Criminal Court. However, the case was closed due to Güney’s death under suspicious circumstances.
French politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon also alluded to the assassinations that took place a decade ago in a tweet condemning the attack.
Tristesse et colère devant l'attaque terroriste visant le centre culturel kurde Ahmet Kaya à Paris.
Il y a 10 ans presque jour pour jour, étaient assassinées trois dirigeantes kurdes en plein Paris. Ça suffit!
Protection de nos alliés kurdes ici et là-bas.
— Jean-Luc Mélenchon (@JLMelenchon) December 23, 2022
The European organization of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) tweeted saying they could guess who the instigators were, calling for solidarity with Kurdish people in Europe.
According to latest news of the French BFMTV, two murdered in the attack on the Ahmet Kaya Kurdish Cultural Center in Paris. Several people injured.
We can guess who is the instigators of this deadly attack.
We urgently call for solidarity with Kurdish people in Europe. pic.twitter.com/GsdoXmOTwm
— HDP Europe (@HDP_Europe) December 23, 2022
The Paris prosecutor’s office said an investigation had been opened and that “a man aged between 60 and 70 has been arrested and is in custody.”
“His identity is in the process of being checked,” it added.