A French man suspected of killing three people in a “racist” attack on a Kurdish cultural center in Paris has been transferred to a psychiatric ward, prosecutors say, as police and protesters clashed in the French capital.
The 69-year-old white suspect was released from custody on Saturday for health reasons and taken to a police psychiatric facility, prosecutors said.
The shots fired at the cultural center and a nearby hair salon on Friday sparked panic in the city’s busy 10th district, which is home to several shops and restaurants and a large Kurdish population.
Three others were injured in the attack, which the suspect told investigators was “racist,” a source close to the case said.
Paris prosecutors said a doctor examined the suspect’s medical condition on Saturday afternoon and found him “incompatible with the detention measure”.
The man’s detention has been lifted and he has been placed in a police psychiatric unit awaiting appearance before an investigating magistrate while the investigation continues, the prosecutor added.
The shooting revived the trauma of three unsolved killings of Kurds in 2013 that many blame Turkey for.
Many in the Kurdish community have expressed anger at the French security services, saying they did too little to stop the shooting.
Frustration boiled over on Saturday and angry protesters clashed with police in central Paris for the second straight day after a tribute rally.
The capital’s police chief, Laurent Nunez, told BFM television that 31 officers and one protester were injured in the riots, while 11 people were arrested “mainly for vandalism”.
Earlier on Saturday, Paris prosecutors extended the suspect’s detention by 24 hours and added an additional charge of acting with a “racist motive”.
He has already been held on suspicion of murder, attempted murder, armed violence and gun violations.
French President Emmanuel Macron said Kurds in France were “the target of a heinous attack” and ordered Nunez to meet with leaders of the Kurdish community on Saturday.
French police secure the street after multiple shots were fired along Rue d’Enghien in the 10th arrondissement in Paris December 23, 2022. – Two people were killed and four injured in a shooting in central Paris on December 23, 2022, police and prosecutors said, adding that the shooter was arrested in his 60s. The shooter’s motives remain unclear, but two of the four injured are in serious condition, French officials said. (Photo by Thomas SAMSON / AFP)
– Racist violence –
The suspect, who has a history of racist violence, initially targeted the Kurdish Cultural Center before entering a hair salon, where he was arrested.
He was found with a suitcase filled with a box containing at least 25 rounds and “two or three loaded magazines,” the source close to the case said.
The gun was a US Army “well-used” Colt 1911 pistol.
Of the three wounded, one was hospitalized for intensive care and two were treated for serious injuries.
According to the Kurdish Democratic Council in France (CDK-F), one woman and two men were among the dead.
Emine Kara was a leader of the Kurdish women’s movement in France, said the organization’s spokesman, Agit Polat. Her application for political asylum in France had been rejected.
The other victims, according to CDK-F, were Abdulrahman Kizil and Mir Perwer, a political refugee and artist.
A police source confirmed that Kara and Kizil were among the victims.
– ‘Pain and Unbelief’ –
Thousands of Kurds gathered on the Place de la Republique in central Paris on Saturday afternoon, where they observed a minute’s silence for the three killed and those “who died for freedom”.
“What we feel is pain and disbelief because this isn’t the first time this has happened,” 23-year-old student Esra told AFP.
Police fired tear gas after clashes ensued and protesters threw projectiles at officers. AFP journalists at the scene said at least four cars were overturned and one was burned.
Over 1,000 people held a similar peaceful rally in the southern port city of Marseille, but it ended in clashes with officers and at least two police cars were set on fire.
Three Kurdish activists were killed in the same area of Paris in 2013, and the victims’ families have long pointed the finger at Turkey for being behind the killings.
Despite suspicions, there appears to be no evidence that Friday’s shooting was politically motivated or linked to Turkey.
Within hours of the attack, security forces fired tear gas to disperse protesters trying to break through a police cordon set up to protect Home Secretary Gerald Darmanin, who had arrived at the scene.
Darmanin said on Friday that while the attacker was “clearly targeting foreigners,” it was “not certain” the man was aiming to kill “Kurds in particular.”
– ‘He’s crazy’ –
The suspect – dubbed William M. by French media – is a gun enthusiast with a history of gun offenses who was released on bail earlier this month.
The retired train driver was convicted of armed violence by a court in the multicultural Parisian suburb of Seine-Saint-Denis in 2016, but appealed.
A year later he was convicted of illegal gun possession.
Last year he was charged with racist violence after he allegedly stabbed migrants and slashed their tents with a sword in a park in east Paris.
“He’s crazy, he’s an idiot,” his father was quoted as saying by TV channel M6.
Often cited as the world’s largest stateless people, the Kurds are a Muslim ethnic group scattered across Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran.
© Agence France-Presse