Three people were killed, and several others wounded in central Paris Friday, when a man opened fire near a Kurdish cultural center and other businesses.
Police have arrested the alleged shooter, a 69-year-old man. The Paris prosecutor’s office says the man was recently released from prison for attacking a migrant camp a year ago. Investigators are considering whether there was a racist motive to the shooting.
Skirmishes erupted in the bustling neighborhood a few hours after the attack, as members of the Kurdish community shouted slogans against the Turkish government, and police fired tear gas to disperse the agitated crowd.
Berivan Firat, an official with the Paris-based Kurdish Democratic Council in France (CDKE) told VOA’s Kurdish service that the gunman first opened fire at the Ahmet Kaya Kurdish Culture Center, then attacked the Avesta restaurant and the Munzur hair salon.
She says there was a meeting scheduled at the cultural center Friday, but it was delayed because of heavy traffic.
“We believe the attacker planned to attack during that meeting to kill more people,” she said.
She noted the street where the attack happened is full of stores owned by people from Africa and the Middle East, but only Kurdish-owned places were attacked.
French President Emmanuel Macron reacted on Twitter. “The Kurds of France have been the target of a heinous attack in the heart of Paris. Our thoughts are with the victims, the people who are struggling to live, their families and loved ones,” Macron said.
Shocked members of the Kurdish community in Paris said they had recently been warned by police of threats to Kurdish targets and demanded justice after the shooting.
A construction worker who was on a job near the shooting scene described seeing the assailant go first to the cultural center, then to the restaurant and then the hairdresser. The construction worker told The Associated Press that he saw the assailant injure three people before two passersby intervened and stopped the attacker.
The worker, who spoke on the condition that his name not be published because he was concerned for his security, described the attacker as silent and calm as he wielded a small-caliber pistol.
Firat, who said a total of 10 people were injured, with at least one in critical condition, pointed out that Friday’s attack precedes the 10th anniversary of a 2013 attack that killed three female Kurdish politicians in Paris.
France was hit by a string of deadly attacks by Islamic extremists in 2015 and 2016 and remains on alert for terrorism-related violence.
Robin Rushmore in VOA’s Kurdish service contributed to this report.
Some information is from The Associated Press and Agence France-Presse.