A shooting in Paris on Friday killed three people and injured at least three others in a busy area ahead of the holiday weekend.
Parisian police have closed a street of shops and restaurants in the 10th arrondissement of Paris, near the Gare de l’Est. The street was buzzing with shoppers ahead of Christmas, but police advised shoppers to avoid the area.
“We were walking down the street and heard gunshots,” Ali Dalek, a witness, told the BBC. “We turned around and saw people running left and right and then, five or six minutes later, because we know people who work at the hair salon, we walked in and saw that they had arrested a guy – an old, aged, tall man.”
Officers arrested a 69-year-old suspect with a criminal record, including an arrest for attacking migrants living in tents. The previous attack took place in December 2021, and it is unclear why he was released, according to the BBC.
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Police apprehended the suspect without resistance and reportedly found the weapon used in the attack, but the suspect sustained facial injuries. Three other people went to hospital for treatment, one of them in critical condition.
Alexandra Cordebard, mayor of the 10th arrondissement, said “the true motivation for the shooting remains unclear”. Paris prosecutor Laure Beccuau said counter-terrorism prosecutors had been in contact with investigators but did not indicate any signs of a terrorist motive.
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Police instead considered a possible racist motive for the shooting, as it occurred near a Kurdish cultural center. In 2013, three Kurdish female activists were shot dead in the same center. A Turkish citizen was charged with the murder, but many suspected Turkish intelligence.
A nearby crowd accused the criminal of acting in the interests of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, chanting “Erdogan, terrorist” and “Turkish state, murderer” as Cordebard spoke.
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The shooting caused a Kurdish community protest near the scene of the shooting and protesters clashed with police. All three victims killed in the shooting were of Kurdish origin, Sky News reported.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo was less reserved in her statements, instead calling the suspect a “far-right activist”.
“Kurds, wherever they reside, must be able to live in peace and security,” Hidalgo said. “More than ever, Paris is by their side in these dark times.”
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.