PARIS ( Associated Press) — Three people were killed and three others wounded Friday in a shooting at a Kurdish cultural center in a posh area of Paris. Officials gave this information. A 69-year-old suspect has been arrested.
The Paris prosecutor’s office has already launched an investigation. Authorities say the suspect has a police record, including an arrest for assaulting immigrants living in tents, and investigators believe there was a possible racist motive for the shooting.
Clashes broke out in the neighborhood for hours after the shooting, with members of the Kurdish community chanting slogans against the Turkish government and police firing tear gas to disperse an increasingly agitated crowd. Some dustbins were set on fire.
The tension occurred when Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin was speaking to reporters nearby. Darmanin said the attacker was clearly targeting foreigners, but police so far had no evidence he wanted to specifically harm Kurds. Darmanin convened a special meeting on Friday night to assess threats against the Kurdish community in France.
According to the 10th district’s mayor, Alexandra Kordbard, the shootings took place in the afternoon at a Kurdish cultural center, a nearby restaurant and a hairdresser. Speaking to reporters at the scene, he said the “true motivation” for the shooting was unclear.
As he spoke, a nearby crowd chanted: “Erdogan, the terrorist,” referring to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and “the Turkish state, the murderer.”
Police cordoned off an area in the French capital’s 10th arrondissement, a busy street full of shops and restaurants near the Gare de l’Est train station, during Christmas weekend rush hour. Paris police have warned people to stay away from the area.
Paris prosecutor Laure Baceau said three people died, one in serious condition and two others hospitalized with less serious injuries. The assailant also suffered injuries on his face, he said.
Beccau indicated that anti-terrorism prosecutors were in contact with investigators, but gave no indication of a terrorist motive.
In 2013, three Kurdish activists, including Sakin Cansiz, founder of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), were shot dead at a Kurdish center in Paris. A Turkish national was accused of his murder, although suspicion also fell on the Turkish intelligence service.
Turkish forces are fighting Kurdish militants linked to the PKK in southeastern Turkey and northern Iraq. Turkish forces have recently launched a series of air and artillery strikes against Syrian Kurdish positions in northern Syria. The PKK is considered a terrorist organization in Turkey, Europe and the United States, and has led an armed insurgency against Ankara since 1984.
France was targeted by Islamic extremists in 2015-2016 and remains on high alert for terrorism-related violence.
Suzanne Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, Nicolas Vaux-Montagney in Lyon, France, and Louise Jolie in Paris contributed to this report.