A police officer stands next to the cordoned off area where a shooting took place in Paris, Friday, Dec. 23, 2022.
A police officer stands next to the cordoned off area where a shooting took place in Paris, Friday, Dec. 23, 2022. Image Credit: AP

Paris: A 69-year-old gunman opened fire at a Kurdish cultural centre and hairdressing salon in central 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, restaurants and bars that is home to a large Kurdish population.

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

"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.

Resident Emmanuel Boujenan 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'."

He said he saw two people on the floor of the salon with leg wounds.

The Kurdish community centre, called Centre Ahmet Kaya, is used by a charity that works to integrate the Kurdish population in the Paris region.

Macron denounces 'odious attack'

French President Emmanuel Macron denounced as "an odious attack" a shooting at a Kurdish community centre in Paris that left three people dead on Friday.

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

"Thoughts for the people who are fighting for their lives, their families and their loved ones. Thanks to the security forces for their courage and sang-froid."

'Seven or eight shots'

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

His motives remain unclear, but his identity and his target immediately raised suspicions that the shooting could have been racially motivated.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin has repeatedly warned about the danger of violent far-right groups in France.

The shooter had been injured and "has been taken to hospital," the mayor of 10th district, Alexandra Cordebard, said at the scene of the shooting.

A shopkeeper in the area told AFP on condition of anonymity that she heard seven or eight shots, saying "it was total panic. We locked ourselves inside."

The Paris prosecutor's office said an investigation had 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.

News of the shooting set nerves jangling in a city that has been repeatedly targeted by Islamist terror groups since 2015.