Skip to main content

France: Several killed in attack on Paris Kurdish community

69-year-old gunman fataly shoots three people 10 years after three Kurds were murdered just streets away
French police, fire fighters and Vigipirat secure the street after several shots were fired along rue d'Enghien in the 10th arrondissement, in Paris on 23 December 2022. (AFP)
By Laurent Perpigna Iban in Bordeaux, France

A 69-year-old gunman opened fire at a Kurdish cultural centre and a hairdressing salon in central Paris on Friday, killing three people and wounding three others, a Paris prosecutor said.

The shots shortly before midday local time caused panic in rue d'Enghien in the 10th arrondissement of the capital, a bustling area of shops and restaurants that is home to a large Kurdish population.

"There are three dead, one person in intensive care and two people with serious injuries, and the suspect, who was arrested, has also been wounded, notably to the face," Paris prosecutor Laure Beccuau told reporters.

Witnesses told AFP that the gunman, known for two previous attempted murders, initially targeted a Kurdish cultural centre before entering a nearby hairdressing salon where he was arrested by police.

Kurdish groups demand Sweden repatriate citizens from Syria after move against YPG and PYD
Read More »

"We saw an old white man enter, then start shooting in the Kurdish cultural centre. Then he went to the hairdresser's next door," Romain, who works in a nearby restaurant, told AFP by telephone.

Alexandre, who was in a cafe a few metres away, told Middle East Eye: "Immediately after the shooting ended, we rushed to the scene. In the Kurdish hairdresser's, there were two people wounded on the ground. Several people chased after the shooter. He was an elderly man."

Another local resident, who asked to remain anonymous, told AFP: "There were people panicking, shouting to the police and pointing to the salon 'he's in there, he's in there, go in'."

Emmanuel Boujenan, a resident of the area, said that he saw two people on the floor of the salon with leg wounds.

A shopkeeper in the area who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity said that she heard seven or eight shots. "It was total panic. We locked ourselves inside."

The shooter was wounded and "has been taken to hospital", the mayor of the 10th district, Alexandra Cordebard, said at the scene, where police have sealed off surrounding roads.

In the aftermath of the shooting, MEE journalist Chris Den Hond filmed protesters smashing up a police car, setting fire to bins and throwing projectiles at riot police as Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin was speaking. Police fired tear gas at demonstrators.

Motives unclear

The gunman, a retired train driver, was described by police sources as "Caucasian", of French nationality and known for two previous attempted murders in 2016 and 2021.

He was suspected of attacking at least two migrants with a knife in a Paris camp on 8 December 2021, AFP reported Beccuau as saying.

He was subsequently charged with premeditated armed violence with a racist motive and placed in detention, the prosecutor said, adding that the man had been released only recently.

She said the question of whether Friday's attack was motivated by racism "will obviously form part of our investigations which are starting now with the deployment of large numbers of people".

Mathilde Panot, parliamentary head of the hard-left France Unbowed political party, immediately pointed the finger at the far-right, calling it a "racist attack".

'We're being killed'

Members of the Kurdish centre could be seen weeping and hugging each other for comfort.

"It's starting again. You aren't protecting us. We're being killed!" one of them cried to nearby police.

The Kurds are a Muslim non-Arab ethnic group spread across Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran, which has faced persecution and violence.

The Kurdish community centre, named after Kurdish singer Ahmet Kaya, hosts the Kurdish Democratic Council of France (CDK-F), the main representative organisation of the Kurdish diaspora in France.

The group has previously shown its support for Kurds attacked both in Syria and Turkey, and is reputed to be close to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

Turkey's looming invasion of Syria tests US-Kurdish ties
Read More »

In January, its members were due to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the killing of three Kurdish activists in the same neighbourhood.

On 9 January 2013, Sakine Cansiz, a co-founder of the PKK, Fidan Dogan, a representative of the KNK (National Congress of Kurdistan) in Paris, and Leyla Saylemez, a member of the Kurdish youth movement, were shot and killed at the Kurdistan Information Center in Paris - just a few streets away from where Friday's attack took place.

A French investigation into the murder, which reportedly honed in on a Turkish ultranationalist close to his country's intelligence services (MIT), has never come to fruition, a CDK-F spokesperson told MEE. "The situation remains at a standstill. Documents were classified 'Secret-Defence' in France, proof that this is stuck at the highest level of the state."

Sylvie Jan, President of France-Kurdistan, did not hide her anger on Friday, drawing a parallel with the assassination of the three Kurdish women a decade ago. "For 10 years, we have explained that impunity encourages recidivism. But we will hold on," she told MEE, on the verge of tears, as the crowd chanted "Erdogan terrorist" and "martyrs don't die".

At a press conference on Friday evening, CDK-F spokesman Agit Polat said: "Political developments regarding the Kurdish people" meant it was "very clear that these are yet again political assassinations. 

"It is inadmissible that in the context of the case this isn't classed as terrorism, and that they're trying to make us believe this was simply a repeat offender who has just come out of prison," he added.

He also asked France "to stop complacency with the Turkish authorities when it comes to the security of the Kurds". 

In Bordeaux and Marseille, Kurdish activists marched through the streets on Friday.  The Kurdish Democratic Council has called for a large demonstration in Paris on Saturday, 24 December, at 12 pm at Place de la Republique.

The Paris prosecutor's office said an investigation has been opened and that "a man aged between 60 and 70 has been arrested and is in custody".

"His identity is in the process of being checked," it added.

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.