Paris: Kurdish organisation blames Turkey for attack on community centre

Protestors stand in front of riot police Kurdish officers following a statement by French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin (unseen) at the site where several shots were fired along rue d'Enghien in the 10th arrondissement, in Paris on Dec. 23, 2022. (AFP Photo)

The Kurdish Democratic Council of France (CDK-F) considers it "unacceptable" that the shooting incident that killed three people outside a Kurdish community centre in Paris on Friday afternoon has not been classified as a "terrorist attack."

"It is unacceptable that the designation of terrorism is not given and that they are trying to convince us that it was a simple far-right (…) who came to commit this horrible attack on our territory," said Agit Polat, a representative of the CDK-F, at a press conference he gave about 100 metres from the attack.

"The political situation in Turkey regarding the Kurdish movement makes us think that these are political murders," Polat stressed, adding that, according to the Kurds of France, "the president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and the Turkish state, is behind the attack."

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said earlier that the alleged attacker acted alone and wanted to "attack foreigners".

The representatives of the CDK-F called on the French authorities "to stop the intransigence towards the Turkish authorities when it comes to the security of the Kurds."

"The French authorities must accept us and stop this cynical game," Polat said, clarifying that he had "expressed his fears" about the safety of the Kurds to French intelligence services "just 20 days ago."

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a leader of the radical left in France, was also present at the interview, and stated that he "doesn't believe in randomness when it comes to killing Kurds in Paris", which comes about 10 years after the triple murder of Kurdish activists in the 10th arrondissement of the French capital.

The CDK-F believes that the Turkish secret services are behind that case.

Regarding the victims of today's attack, the CDK-F said that one was a Kurdish artist, a recognised political refugee, who is "being persecuted in Turkey for his art." The second man was "an ordinary Kurdish citizen" who frequented the community centre every day.

The woman who was killed had submitted a request to be granted political asylum, but this was rejected by the French authorities.

The Coordinating Council of Armenian Organisations in France (CCAF) in a statement expressed its condolences to the Kurdish Cultural Centre and CDK-F "with which we maintain a long friendship, forged in our mobilisations against pan-Turkism and Turkish fascism."

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

The shots shortly before midday (1100 GMT) caused panic in rue d'Enghien in the trendy 10th district of the capital, a bustling area of shops and restaurants that is home to a large Kurdish population.

Witnesses told AFP that the gunman, described by police as white, a French national and previously charged with racist violence, initially targeted the Kurdish cultural centre before entering a hairdressing salon where he was arrested.

The Kurdish community centre, called Centre Ahmet Kaya, is used by a charity that organises concerts and exhibitions, and helps the Kurdish diaspora in the Paris region.

Clashes with police

Within hours of the attack, Kurdish protesters clashed with police, who used teargas in an attempt to disperse them as they tried to break through a police cordon deployed to protect Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin who had arrived at the scene.

Demonstrators threw objects at police while voicing fury over an attack they saw as deliberate and which French security services had done too little to prevent.

Several cars parked in the area as well as police vehicles had their windows smashed as protesters threw bricks.

The gunman, named as William M. in the French media, had already been linked to two previous attempted murders in 2016 and 2021.

The retired train driver was initially convicted over the first case in the multicultural Seine-Saint-Denis suburb of Paris, but freed on appeal, Paris prosecutor Laure Beccuau told reporters without giving further details.

In the second case, he was charged with racist violence after allegedly attacking migrants in tents in the Bercy area of the city in December 2021, Beccuau added.

At least two migrants suffered injuries from a sword used in the assault, a police source told AFP at the time.

"The Kurds in France have been the target of an odious attack in the heart of Paris," French President Emmanuel Macron wrote on Twitter.

Authorities are likely to face questions in the coming days over why the gunman had been recently released on bail given his criminal record.

He suffered facial injuries on Friday and had been taken to hospital for treatment.

The Kurdish Democratic Council of France and Kurds at the scene underlined that the shooting coincided with the 10th anniversary of the murder of three female Kurdish militants in Paris.

A Turkish man was charged with the assassinations on January 9, 2013, but he died in custody before being tried.

The victims' families have long pointed the finger at Turkey for masterminding the deaths of the three women, who were shot in the head and neck, and at France for failing to investigate properly.

"The Kurdish Democratic Council of France condemns in the strongest possible terms this vile terrorist attack which occurred following multiples threats from Turkey, an ally of Daesh," it said, using an alternative name for the Islamic State terror group.

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