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3 people died when a shooter targeted a Kurdish cultural center in Paris

Police in Paris investigate at the scene of a shooting on Friday that left three people dead and three others wounded. A 69-year-old suspect was wounded and arrested.
Lewis Joly
/
AP
Police in Paris investigate at the scene of a shooting on Friday that left three people dead and three others wounded. A 69-year-old suspect was wounded and arrested.

Updated December 23, 2022 at 11:10 AM ET

PARIS — A shooting targeting a Kurdish cultural center in a bustling Paris neighborhood Friday left three people dead and three others wounded, authorities said. A 69-year-old suspect was wounded and arrested.

The Paris prosecutor said the suspect had recently been released from prison after attacking migrants living in tents, and that investigators are considering a possible racist motive for the shooting.

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

The tensions occurred as Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin was speaking to reporters nearby. Darmanin said the attacker was clearly targeting foreigners, but that police don't have evidence at this stage that he was specifically aiming to hurt Kurds. Darmanin is holding a special meeting Friday night to assess threats targeting the Kurdish community in France.

Shocked members of the Kurdish community in Paris said they had been recently warned by police of threats to Kurdish targets, and demanded justice after the shooting.

Nearby residents and merchants were deeply rattled by the attack, which came as Paris is buzzing with festive activity before the Christmas weekend.

The shooting occurred at midday at a Kurdish cultural center and a restaurant and hairdresser nearby, according to the mayor for the 10th arrondissement, Alexandra Cordebard.

As she spoke, a crowd nearby chanted, "Erdogan, terrorist" — referring to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan — and "Turkish state, assassin."

A construction worker who was on a job nearby 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, then two passersby intervened and stopped the attacker.

The worker, who spoke on condition 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.

Fire brigade medics work on the scene where a shooting took place in Paris on Friday.
Lewis Joly / AP
/
AP
Fire brigade medics work on the scene where a shooting took place in Paris on Friday.

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.

Paris Prosecutor Laure Beccuau said three people hit in the shooting have died, one is in critical condition and two others are hospitalized with less serious injuries. The attacker was also wounded in the face, she said.

She said anti-terrorism prosecutors are in contact with investigators, but haven't indicated any sign of a terrorist motive.

The prosecutor said the suspect had at least two prior run-ins with police: the attack on migrants in tents in eastern Paris in 2021, and a recent conviction in another case in a Paris suburb. She didn't elaborate on details of either case.

The attacker attended a shooting range in a sports club, and had several registered weapons, Darmanin said. He added that the attacker is French and was not on any radicalism watch lists, or known for involvement in any extreme-right or other political movements.

In the attack on migrants, the suspect wielded a saber 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 AP. "We don't feel defended by the French justice system." "It's clearly the Kurds who were targeted."

He described the cultural center "like the embassy for Kurds in Paris," a gathering place for cultural events, political discussion, assistance with immigration procedures, "a house where all Kurds get together."

In 2013, three women Kurdish activists, including Sakine Cansiz — a founder of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK — were found shot dead at a Kurdish center in Paris. A Turkish citizen was charged with their killing, although suspicion also fell on the Turkish intelligence service.

Turkey's army has been battling against Kurdish militants affiliated with the banned PKK, in southeast Turkey as well as in northern Iraq. Turkey's military has also recently launched a series of strikes from the air and with artillery against Syrian Kurdish militant targets in northern Syria. The PKK is considered a terrorist organization in Turkey, Europe and the United States, and has led an armed insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.

France was hit by a string of deadly attacks by Islamic extremists in 2015-2016 and remains on alert for terrorism-related violence.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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The Associated Press