A 69-year-old gunman opened fire at a Kurdish cultural centre and a hairdressing salon in Paris on Friday (23 December), killing three people and injuring three others, witnesses and prosecutors said.
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 previously charged with racist violence, initially targeted the Kurdish cultural centre before entering a hairdressing salon where he was arrested by police.
“We saw an old white man enter, then start shooting in the Kurdish cultural centre, 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 ‘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.
Of the three wounded people, one is in intensive care and two are being treated for serious injuries, officials said.
The Kurdish community centre, called Centre Ahmet Kaya, is used by a charity that organises concerts and exhibitions, and helps the Kurdish diaspora in the Paris region.
The gunman was described by police sources as “Caucasian”, of French nationality, and was linked to two previous attempted murders in 2016 and 2021.
The retired train driver was initially convicted over the first case in the multicultural Seine-Saint-Denis suburb of Paris, but freed on appeal, Paris prosecutor Laure Beccuau told reporters without giving further details.
In the second case, he was charged with racist violence after allegedly attacking migrants sleeping in tents in the Bercy area of the city in December 2021, Beccuau added.
At least two migrants were stabbed, a police source told AFP at the time.
“As for a racist motive for this case, this will obviously form part of our investigations which are starting now,” she said.
The shooter was released on bail recently and suffered facial injuries on Friday, requiring hospital treatment.
France’s specialised anti-terror prosecutor’s office has not taken over the case so far, indicating that the triple murder is being treated as regular violent crime at this stage.
The far right seems to have struck again. With deadly consequences,” senior left-wing MP Clementine Autain wrote on Twitter. “When will those at the head of the state take this terrorist threat seriously?”
But the Kurdish Democratic Council of France (CDK-F), which uses the cultural centre as its headquarters, said in a statement that it considered the shooting to be a “terror attack”.
Prime Minister Elizabeth Borne called the shooting an “odious attack” and sent her “full support to the victims and their loved ones.”
Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin has repeatedly warned about the danger of violent far-right groups in France.
Kurds in France
In one of several cases in recent years, 13 people from far-right political circles were ordered to stand trial last month for allegedly plotting to attack President Emmanuel Macron.
Some members of the Kurdish centre could be seen weeping and hugging each other for comfort after the attack.
“It’s starting again. You aren’t protecting us. We’re being killed!” one of them cried to nearby police.
Often described as the world’s largest people without a state, the Kurds are a Muslim ethnic group spread across Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran.
The Kurdish Democratic Council of France underlined that the shooting coincided with the 10th anniversary of the murder of three female Kurdish militants in Paris.
A Turkish man was charged with the assassinations on 9 January 2013, but he died in custody before being tried.
The victims’ families have long pointed the finger at Turkey for masterminding the deaths of the three women, who were shot in the head and neck, and at France for failing to investigate properly.
“The Kurdish Democratic Council of France condemns in the strongest possible terms this vile terrorist attack which occurred following multiples threats from Turkey, an ally of Daesh,” it said, using an alternative name for the Islamic State terror group.
Turkey launches regular military operations against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) — a designated terrorist group by the European Union and the United States — as well as Kurdish groups it accuses of being allies.
The PKK has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.