‘Kurds were clearly targeted’: Protests erupt in Paris after gunman kills three at cultural centre

Members of Kurdish community say shooting was terror attack as authorities probe motive, while activist warns: ‘We don’t feel defended by the French justice system’

Andy Gregory
Saturday 24 December 2022 01:21 GMT
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Paris shooting: Police on scene after gunman kills two and injures four

Fierce protests erupted in Paris after a gunman, released from custody despite carrying out a sword attack at a migrant camp, shot and killed three people at a cultural centre.

Shocked members of the city’s Kurdish community said it was clear they had been the targets of a terror attack in the tenth arrondissement on Friday at midday, less than a fortnight after the 69-year-old assailant was released from custody. Three others were injured, one critically.

But interior minister Gerald Darmanin suggested the gunman’s intended targets were potentially “foreigners in general”, while Paris prosecutor Laure Beccuau said terrorism prosecutors were in contact with investigators but had not given any indication of a terrorist motive.

Protestors clashes with French riot police officers following a statement by French interior minister Gerald Darmanin
Protestors clashes with French riot police officers following a statement by French interior minister Gerald Darmanin (Thomas Samson/AFP via Getty Images)

Mr Darminin said police would reinforce the protection of Kurdish community sites after the attack, in which an “old white” gunman walked into the Kurdish cultural centre and opened fire. A hairdresser’s and a restaurant were also hit before bystanders overwhelmed the assailant as he tried to reload, according to witnesses.

Hours later, police were firing tear gas to disperse members of the Kurdish community after protests erupted close to the scene of the shootings on Rue d’Enghien, where others could be seen weeping and hugging each other for comfort.

One person was reported as shouting at police: “It’s starting again. You aren’t protecting us. We’re being killed.”

Footage showed people starting a fire in the middle of the street and throwing projectiles at police, overturning rubbish bins and restaurant tables.

A police source claimed to Agence France-Presse that five officers were injured and one person arrested in the skirmishes.

“We do not at all feel protected in Paris,” Activist Murat Roni said: “We don’t feel defended by the French justice system. It’s clearly the Kurds who were targeted.”

Protesters and police clash after details emerge of the shooting at a Kurdish cultural centre in Paris
Protesters and police clash after details emerge of the shooting at a Kurdish cultural centre in Paris (EPA)
One person was arrested during the clashes
One person was arrested during the clashes (AP Photo/Lewis Joly)

The Kurdish Democratic Council of France (CDK-F), which uses the cultural centre as its headquarters, condemned what it said was a terrorist attack, on the back of “multiple threats from Turkey”. Some protesters reportedly shouted slogans against the Turkish government.

The organisation noted that the attack came shortly before the tenth anniversary of the triple assassination of Kurdish activists in a nearby street on 9 January 2013. One victim of which was Sakine Cansiz, a co-founder of the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK), which the UK regards as a terror organisation. No official link between the shootings has so far been identified.

The CDK-F said that the head of the Kurdish Women’s Movement in France was among those killed in Friday’s attack, and denounced what it alleged was “France’s complacency with the Turkish fascist regime”.

There is no evidence to suggest that Turkey was involved in the shooting.

A further demonstration is also planned on Paris’s Place de la République on Saturday, and a vigil was held to pay tribute to those killed on Friday night.

A further demonstration is due to take place on Saturday
A further demonstration is due to take place on Saturday (REUTERS/Clotaire Achi)

Mr Darmanin, who has repeatedly warned about the threat of far-right violence in France, said the French suspect was not on any radicalism watch lists and had several registered weapons.

Ms Beccuau, the Paris prosecutor, said that the 69-year-old had past convictions for illegal arms possession and armed violence, and had been handed preliminary charges of “premeditated, armed violence of a racist nature” for the attack last December on a migrant camp in Paris’s Bercy district.

The man, reportedly a retired train conductor, had been released from jail under judicial supervision on 12 December after serving a year’s pre-trial detention, the maximum allowed by the law, Ms Beccuau said. He was also ordered to get psychiatric care and banned from carrying weapons.

An unnamed police source was cited by Le Parisien newspaper as saying that the suspect told officers during his arrest on Friday that he “did not like Kurds”.

Describing what he heard during the shootings, one shopkeeper said that seven or eight shots were fired, causing mayhem on the street. “It was total panic. We locked ourselves inside,” she said.

Eyewitness Mehmet Dilek said he first heard gunshots and then cries coming from inside a barber's shop opposite the cultural centre, adding that bystanders had subdued the gunman as he tried to reload.

“It might be shocking for someone who has never had a worry in their life. But we grew up under the threat of arms and bombs, this is how life is for us Kurds,” he said.

The Paris prosecutor’s office said it had opened an investigation into counts of murder, intentional homicide and aggravated violence.

French president Emmanuel Macron said: “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.”

Additional reporting by AP

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