By Juliette Jabkhiro and Caroline Pailliez
PARIS (RockedBuzz via Reuters) – A gunman killed three people on Friday at a Kurdish cultural center and near a Kurdish café in central Paris, prompting violent protests on nearby streets as night fell.
President Emmanuel Macron has said that the French Kurdish community has come under a heinous attack. French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said the suspected attacker had clearly intended to target foreigners.
Several shots were fired in Rue d’Enghien around noon, creating panic in a street lined with small shops and cafés in the busy 10th district of the French capital.
All three of those who died were Kurds, a lawyer for the Kurdish cultural center told RockedBuzz via Reuters. Three others were injured, one of them life threatening.
Riot police fired tear gas as darkness fell to drive off an angry mob gathered a short distance from the shooting site as bullets were hurled at officers, trash cans and restaurant tables overturned, and cars damaged.
Authorities said they had arrested a 69-year-old man, who Paris prosecutor Laure Beccuau said had recently been released from pre-trial detention for a saber attack on a migrant camp in Paris a year ago. He was convicted in June of committing violent acts with a weapon in 2016 and had filed an appeal.
RockedBuzz via Reuters was unable to immediately contact the suspect’s legal representatives.
Images broadcast by French news networks on Friday showed a white man, a French national, wearing a gray top and shabby white trainers as he was led from the scene, his hands handcuffed behind his back.
Eyewitness Mehmet Dilek told RockedBuzz via Reuters he first heard gunshots and then screams coming from inside a barber shop opposite the cultural centre. Bystanders subdued the gunman as he reloaded, he added.
“It might be shocking to someone who has never had a worry in their life. But we grew up under the threat of guns and bombs, that’s what life is like for us Kurds,” he continued.
The shootings were a “terrible drama,” Borough Mayor Alexandra Cordebard told reporters. One of the wounded had sustained life-threatening injuries, she said.
Kurdish leaders have called for better protection for their community, an issue for Kurds in France since the high-profile killing of three Kurdish women a decade ago.
“Kurds, wherever they live, should be able to live in peace and security,” Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said on Twitter. “Now more than ever, Paris stands by them in these dark times.”
Julien Verplancke, who works at another local restaurant, Chez Minna, said staff at the Kurdish restaurant left the establishment in tears after the shooting.
Several hours later, armed police were still guarding a cordon of security as detectives scoured the scene.
An investigation into murder, manslaughter and aggravated assault has been opened.
Salih Azad, a prominent figure in Marseille’s Kurdish community, said he knew one of the victims, a 26-year-old woman who had lived in Paris for several years.
“She was well integrated socially and culturally,” she said.
(Reporting by Juliette Jabkhiro, Sudip Kar-Gupta, Caroline Pailliez and Tassilo Hummel; Screenplay by Richard Lough; Editing by Toby Chopra, Peter Graff and Alexander Smith)