A gunman killed three people and wounded three others Friday at a Kurdish community center, a hair salon and a restaurant in central Paris in an attack that French officials said appeared directed at foreigners.
A 69-year-old man with a criminal record was taken into custody in the attack, which ignited neighborhood protests that led to violent clashes with the police.
One of the wounded was seriously injured, according to the Paris prosecutor, in the shooting shortly before noon on Rue d’Enghien, a narrow street in the 10th Arrondissement of the French capital.
The gunman “clearly wanted to target foreigners,” Gérald Darmanin, the French interior minister, told reporters in Paris, though he said his “exact motivations” were unknown. He added that the gunman appeared to have acted alone.
Laure Beccuau, the Paris prosecutor, also told reporters that the police were investigating a possible racist motive for the attack, which killed one woman and two men.
On Twitter, President Emmanuel Macron said: “The Kurds of France were targeted by an odious attack in the heart of Paris.”
French officials said that the gunman had been arrested after shots were fired at a restaurant and a hair salon as well as at the Kurdish community center, and that he had been taken to the hospital after being slightly injured in the face.
Mr. Darmanin said the gunman, whom the police did not name, was a French citizen who had never been flagged by French intelligence services and did not belong to any known far-right extremist groups. But he was the member of a shooting club and had “many” registered firearms, Mr. Darmanin said. The Paris prosecutor said the man, who lived in Paris, had a criminal record.
Mayor Anne Hidalgo of Paris said on Twitter that the Kurdish community had been targeted by “murders committed by a far-right militant,” but she did not provide details about the suspect.
“Kurds, wherever they live, should be able to live in peace and security,” Ms. Hidalgo said. “More than ever, Paris is by their side in these dark times.”
The Kurds, a large ethnic group in the Middle East, have no state of their own.
France was struck by large-scale Islamist terrorist attacks in 2015 and 2016, and, in the years that followed, by a string of smaller but deadly shootings and stabbings, often carried out by lone assailants.
Mass shootings remain rare, but there have been growing worries about far-right extremist violence. This month, far-right militants disrupted a left-wing political meeting in Bordeaux; the police also arrested dozens of far-right militants in Paris and Lyon this month over suspicions that they were planning violent attacks after a France-Morocco soccer game during the World Cup.
After the attack on Friday, the Paris prosecutor’s office said that it had opened an investigation into murder, attempted murder, assault and violation of France’s firearm laws.
Ms. Beccuau said the suspect had been involved in several other criminal cases, but she provided few details about them.
He was convicted in 2017 by a court in Bobigny, a northern suburb of Paris, for illegal firearms possession, she said. The same court convicted him in June for an armed assault that occurred in 2016 and sentenced him to 12 months in prison, but he had appealed that sentence, Ms. Beccuau added.
In December 2021, the suspect was charged with racist armed assault after he attacked migrants living in tents near Bercy, a neighborhood in the 12th Arrondissement of Paris. He was arrested and placed in pretrial detention, but was freed earlier this month because he had reached the one-year limit of time he could be held without trial on those charges, Ms. Beccuau said.
The man was placed under judicial supervision and faced a number of restrictions, including having to undergo mandatory psychiatric treatment. He was also barred from possessing a weapon.
“There is no evidence at this stage to suggest that this man is affiliated with any extremist ideological movement,” Ms. Beccuau said in a statement.
One witness to Friday’s attack, who was identified only as Ali, told the BFMTV news channel that he had been walking down the street when he heard gunfire and turned around.
“We saw people running left and right,” he said. He then entered the nearby hair salon, where three people were wounded, he told the news channel.
The police cordoned off the area where the shooting occurred — normally a bustling street with many shops and restaurants — and left clusters of journalists and bystanders standing at the edges on wet pavement. But stunned members of the local Kurdish community quickly gathered, expressing sadness and then anger.
“I don’t understand, we are helpless,” said one Kurdish man in his 40s, who said he worked in a nearby restaurant and had been living in France for the past 20 years.
“The same thing happened 10 years ago, it seems that it will never end,” said the man — who declined to give his name out of fear for his security — referring to the killing in 2013 of three Kurdish activists in the same arrondissement of Paris, including Sakine Cansiz, a Kurdish separatist who was a founder of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or P.K.K.
The party has fought a decades long insurgency against the Turkish state. Turkey, the United States and the E.U. consider the P.K.K. a terrorist organization.
Tens of millions of Kurds in the Middle East live mostly in Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria. After World War I, Western powers vowed to create a Kurdish state only to change their minds a few years later, leaving the Kurds as minorities in other states that have often sought to suppress their ethnic identity and language.
A range of groups have formed to fight or advocate for Kurdish rights, independence and autonomy over the decades, sometimes through violent insurgencies against their governments.
On the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis, which runs perpendicular to the Rue d’Enghien, 50 or so men and a handful of women shouted angry slogans against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey — even though there was no information suggesting Turkish authorities were in any way connected to the attack.
Some of the protests in Paris turned violent later on Friday. Riot police officers fired tear gas and clashed with dozens of angry protesters who lit trash cans on fire and threw projectiles at the police.
Alexandra Cordebard, the mayor of the 10th arrondissement, said that there had been no particular security measures in place at or near the Kurdish community center. “This neighborhood lives in perfect harmony, with a mix of communities living together,” she said.
The Kurdish Democratic Council of France, a group whose headquarters are at the same address as the cultural center, rejected the French authorities’ hypothesis that the suspect was targeting foreigners in general but not Kurds specifically. The group suggested, without presenting any evidence, that Turkey was to blame.
At a news conference on Friday evening, the group expressed anger that prosecutors had not opened a terrorism investigation and said one of the victims was the head of a Kurdish women’s movement in France.
“We are currently outraged by this situation,” said Agit Polat, a spokesperson for the Kurdish Democratic Council of France.
Mr. Darmanin, the interior minister, said he had asked French security forces to heighten security at Kurdish community gathering places around the country, as well as at Turkish diplomatic sites.
Tom Nouvian contributed reporting from Paris, and Ben Hubbard from Beirut, Lebanon.