A shooting targeting a Kurdish cultural center in a bustling Paris neighborhood Friday left three people dead and three others wounded, authorities said. A 69-year-old suspect was wounded and arrested.
The Paris prosecutor’s office opened an investigation for murder and attempted murder. The Paris prosecutor said the suspect had a prior police record, including an arrest for attacking migrants living in tents, and that investigators are considering a possible racist motive for the shooting.
The shooting occurred at midday at a Kurdish cultural center and a restaurant and hairdresser nearby, according to the mayor for the 10th arrondissement, Alexandra Cordebard. Speaking to reporters at the scene, she said the “real motivation″ for the shooting remains unclear.
As she spoke, a crowd nearby chanted, “Erdogan, terrorist” — referring to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan — and “Turkish state, assassin.”
Police cordoned off the area in the 10th arrondissement of the French capital, on a busy street with shops and restaurants near the Gare de l’Est train station. The shooting came at a time when Paris is buzzing with activity before the Christmas weekend. The Paris police department warned people to stay away from the area.
Paris Prosecutor Laure Beccuau said three people hit in the shooting have died, one is in critical condition and two others are hospitalized with less serious injuries. The attacker was also wounded in the face, she said.
She said anti-terrorism prosecutors are in contact with investigators, but haven’t indicated any sign of a terrorist motive.
In 2013, three women Kurdish activists, including Sakine Cansiz — a founder of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK — were found shot dead at a Kurdish center in Paris. A Turkish citizen was charged with their killing, although suspicion also fell on the Turkish intelligence service.
Turkey’s army has been battling against Kurdish militants affiliated with the banned PKK, in southeast Turkey as well as in northern Iraq. Turkey’s military has also recently launched a series of strikes from the air and with artillery against Syrian Kurdish militant targets in northern Syria. The PKK is considered a terrorist organization in Turkey, Europe and the United States, and has led an armed insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.
France was hit by a string of deadly attacks by Islamic extremists in 2015-2016 and remains on alert for terrorism-related violence.