Riots broke out in Paris near the site of a racially motivated mass shooting that killed three people and injured three others.
Emmanuel Macron said the country’s Kurdish community was the victim of a horrific attack, while his interior minister Gerald Darmanin said the suspect was clearly targeting foreigners.
Gunfire rang out on Rue d’Enghien around noon on Friday, sparking panic on a street lined with small shops and cafes in the French capital’s bustling 10th arrondissement.
Police fired tear gas as darkness descended to drive back an angry mob as projectiles were thrown at officers, trash cans and restaurant tables were overturned, and cars were damaged.
A 69-year-old man named William M was arrested. Prosecutor Laure Beccuau said he was recently released from detention pending trial for a saber attack on a migrant camp in Paris a year ago.
He was convicted in June of committing violent acts with a weapon in 2016 and appealed.
An investigative source said the attacker arrived in the area “armed with a rifle and deliberately targeted an area full of immigrants, including recent arrivals sleeping in the wild.”
They added: “He threatened people in a hairdresser, a restaurant and people near the Ahmet-Kaya Kurdish Cultural Center. He seemed bent on killing as many people as possible.’
Eyewitness Mehmet Dilek said he first heard gunshots and then screams coming from a barber shop opposite the cultural center. Bystanders suppressed the gunman as he reloaded, he added.
“It can be shocking to someone who has never worried in his life. But we grew up under the threat of guns and bombs, that’s life for us Kurds,” he continued.
The shootings were a “terrible drama,” district mayor Alexandra Cordebard told reporters. One of the injured had life-threatening injuries, she said.
Kurdish leaders called for better protection of their community, a theme for Kurds in France since the high-profile murder of three Kurdish women a decade ago.
“Kurds, wherever they live, should be able to live in peace and security,” Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said on Twitter.
“Paris is now more than ever by their side in these dark times.”
Julien Verplancke, who works at another local restaurant, Chez Minna, said staff at the Kurdish restaurant came out of the building in tears after the shooting.
Several hours later, armed police were still guarding a security cordon as detectives combed the scene.
An investigation has been opened into murder, manslaughter and aggravated violence.
Salih Azad, a prominent figure from the Kurdish community in Marseille, said he knew one of the victims, a 26-year-old woman who had lived in Paris for several years.
“She was socially and culturally well integrated,” he said.
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