Violent protests erupted in Paris after a gunman, freed despite a sword attack at a migrant camp, shot dead three people at a cultural center.
Shocked members of the city’s Kurdish community said it was clear they had been the target of a terrorist attack in the 10th arrondissement at noon on Friday, less than a fortnight after the 69-year-old attacker was released. year. Three others were injured, one seriously.
But Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin suggested the targets the shooter was aiming for were potentially “foreigners in general”, while Paris prosecutor Laure Beccuau said counter-terrorism prosecutors were in contact with the investigators but gave no indication of a terrorist motive.
Mr Darminin said police would step up protection at Kurdish community sites after the attack, in which an armed “old white man” entered the Kurdish cultural center and opened fire. A hairdresser and restaurant were also hit before bystanders overwhelmed the attacker as he tried to reload, witnesses said.
Hours later, police fired tear gas to disperse members of the Kurdish community after protests erupted near the scene of the shooting on rue d’Enghien, where others could be seen crying and to hug each other for comfort.
A person reportedly shouted at the police: “It starts again. You are not protecting us. We are being killed.
Footage showed people starting a fire in the middle of the street and throwing projectiles at police, knocking over trash cans and restaurant tables.
A police source told Agence France-Presse that five police officers were injured and one person arrested in the scuffles.
“We don’t feel protected at all in Paris,” said activist Murat Roni: “We don’t feel defended by French justice. It was clearly the Kurds who were targeted.
The Kurdish Democratic Council of France (CDK-F), which uses the cultural center as its headquarters, condemned what it described as a terrorist attack, against the backdrop of “multiple threats from Turkey”. Some demonstrators reportedly shouted slogans against the Turkish government.
The organization noted that the attack came shortly before the tenth anniversary of the triple killing of Kurdish activists in a nearby street on January 9, 2013. One of the victims was Sakine Cansiz, co-founder of the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK ). , which the UK considers a terrorist organization. No official link between the shootings has yet been identified.
The CDK-F said the head of the Kurdish Women’s Movement in France was among those killed in Friday’s attack and denounced what it called “France’s complacency with the Turkish fascist regime”.
There is no indication that Turkey was involved in the shooting.
A new demonstration is also planned on the Place de la République in Paris on Saturday, and a vigil has been organized to pay tribute to those killed on Friday evening.
Mr Darmanin, who has repeatedly warned of the threat of far-right violence in France, said the French suspect was not on any radicalism watchlists and had several registered weapons.
Ms Beccuau, the Paris prosecutor, said the 69-year-old had previous convictions for illegal possession of weapons and armed violence, and had been charged with ‘premeditated racially motivated armed violence’ for the December attack last against a migrant camp in the Bercy district of Paris.
The man, believed to be a retired train conductor, was released from jail on Dec. 12 after serving a year in pre-trial detention, the maximum allowed by law, Ms. Beccuau said. He was also ordered to receive psychiatric treatment and prohibited from carrying weapons.
An anonymous police source was quoted by The Parisian newspaper saying the suspect told officers when he was arrested on Friday that he “didn’t like Kurds”.
Describing what he heard during the shooting, a shopkeeper said seven or eight shots were fired causing chaos in the street. “It was total panic. We locked ourselves inside,” she said.
Eyewitness Mehmet Dilek said he first heard gunshots and then screams coming from inside a hair salon opposite the cultural center, adding that bystanders overpowered the gunman as he tried to recharge.
“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 how life is for us Kurds,” a- he declared.
The Paris prosecutor’s office has announced that it has opened an investigation for 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 struggling to survive, their families and loved ones. »
Additional reports per AP
The Independent Gt