Paris attack: Gunman kills three in possible racist attack on Kurdish community

3/14/2023 4:55 PM

Clashes erupted in Paris after three people were killed in a shooting at a Kurdish cultural centre, which authorities suspect may have been motivated by racism.

One woman and two men died in the shooting at the cultural centre and hair salon. Three others were injured.

The attack, which police believe was targeted at foreigners, occurred in Rue d'Enghien, which is a busy Kurdish neighbourhood. Kurds are a Muslim ethnic group spread across Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran.

According to French media, a 69-year-old man was arrested in connection with the attack. News networks broadcast images of a white French national being taken away from the scene by police.  

Members of the Kurdish community gathered outside the centre and in the streets nearby in protest at the shootings, clashing at times with security forces, demanding more from the authorities.  

The shooter, released on bail recently, had a history of racist violence and was already linked to two previous attempted murders in 2016 and 2021.

The incident comes only days after the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned that the “biggest threat of terrorism” is posed by far-right and white supremacist groups in the West.

"Clearly wanted to take it out on foreigners"

Mathilde Panot, the parliamentary leader of the hard-left France Unbowed political party, blamed the far-right for the attack, describing it as a "racist attack."

According to French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, who spoke to journalists at the scene, the suspect "clearly wanted to take it out on foreigners."

Police are yet to classify the shooting as a terrorist attack but Paris prosecutor Laure Beccuau stated that investigators are not ruling out the possibility of "racist motivations" behind the incident.

“When it comes to racist motivations, of course these elements are part of the investigation that was just launched,” Beccuau said.

In a Twitter post on Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron condemned the "heinous attack," stating that "the Kurds of France have been the target.

“My thoughts to the victims, to the people who are fighting to live, to their families and loved ones. My gratitude to our law enforcement forces for their courage and calmness,” Macron said.

The shooter, identified as William M. in French media, is a retired train driver and an avid gun enthusiast with a history of weapons offences.

In 2016, he was convicted of armed violence but appealed the conviction. A year later, he was convicted of illegally possessing a firearm.  

Last year, he was charged with racist violence after being accused of stabbing migrants and cutting their tents with a sword in a park in Paris.