23 December 2022

Man, 69, suspected of killing three people at Kurdish centre in Paris

23 December 2022

A man who was charged last year with attacking migrants shot dead three people at a Kurdish cultural centre in Paris in an assault that appeared to be specifically aimed at foreigners, authorities said.

The shooting, which also wounded three people, shook the Kurdish community in the French capital and sparked skirmishes between angry Kurds and police.

It also rattled merchants in the bustling neighbourhood in central Paris on the eve of Christmas weekend and put officers on alert for more violence.

Authorities identified the suspect as a 69-year-old Paris man who had been jailed for attacking migrants living in tents and released earlier this month. Investigators were considering a possible racist motive for the shooting.

The attack occurred at midday at the cultural centre and a nearby restaurant and hair salon, according to the mayor of that part of the city, Alexandra Cordebard.

Skirmishes erupted in the neighbourhood a few hours later as members of the Kurdish community shouted slogans against the Turkish government, and police fired tear gas to disperse the increasingly agitated crowd. Some rubbish bins were set on fire.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said the suspect was clearly targeting foreigners and had acted alone and was not affiliated with any extreme-right or other radical movements.

French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted: “The Kurds of France were the target of an odious attack in the heart of Paris. Thoughts for the victims, those who are fighting to survive, to their families and loved ones.”

Shocked members of the city’s Kurdish community called it a terrorist act. They said they had recently been warned by police of threats to Kurdish targets and they demanded justice.

Paris prosecutor Laure Beccuau said terrorism prosecutors were in contact with investigators but had not given any indication of a terrorist motive.

A construction worker who was on a job nearby described seeing the assailant go first to the cultural centre, then to the restaurant and the hair salon. The worker told The Associated Press that he saw the gunman wound three people before two passers-by in the salon intervened and stopped him.

The worker described the attacker as silent and calm as he wielded a small-calibre pistol.

The suspect was wounded in the face during his arrest, Ms Beccuau said.

Police cordoned off the area in the 10th arrondissement of the French capital, on a busy street with shops and restaurants near the Gare de l’Est train station.

One of the wounded was in a critical condition, and two others were in hospital with less serious injuries, the prosecutor said.

The suspect, who is French, attended a shooting range in a sports club and had several registered weapons, Mr Darmanin said. The man was not on any radicalism watch lists.

The suspect had past convictions for illegal arms possession and armed violence, and was handed preliminary charges of “premeditated, armed violence of a racist nature” for the attack last year on a migrant camp in Paris, the prosecutor said.

He had been held in provisional detention until December 12, when he was released under judicial supervision, ordered to get psychiatric care and banned from carrying weapons.

In the attack on migrants, the suspect wielded a sabre and wounded some people in a makeshift camp, said Yann Manzi of aid group Utopia 54.

He lamented the suspect’s recent release, as did Kurds who gathered at the scene of Friday’s shooting.

“We do not at all feel protected in Paris,” activist Murat Roni told The Associated Press. “We don’t feel defended by the French justice system. It’s clearly the Kurds who were targeted.”

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