PARIS (AP) — The man suspected of fatally shooting three Kurds in Paris ahead of Christmas weekend told investigators that he had set out that morning aiming to kill migrants or foreigners and then himself, according to prosecutors.
The 69-year-old man killed three people outside a Kurdish cultural center Friday and wounded three others, and was then disarmed and subdued by one of the injured victims, the Paris prosecutor’s office said Sunday.
He was detained at the scene and transferred Saturday to psychiatric care. His name hasn’t been released. If he is released from psychiatric care, he faces potential charges of racially motivated murder, attempted murder and arms violations.
The prosecutor’s office said in a statement Sunday that the suspect told investigators that a 2016 burglary at his home marked a turning point for him, sparking what he called a “hatred toward foreigners that became completely pathological.”
The shooting in a bustling Parisian neighborhood shook and angered the Kurdish community, and stirred up concerns about hate crimes at a time when far-right voices have gained prominence in France and around Europe.
The suspect told investigators that the morning of the shooting, he took his weapon first to the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis with the aim of killing foreigners but changed his mind, the prosecutor’s statement said. He then went to the Kurdish center in Paris, which is near his parents’ home.
He opened fire on one woman and two men there, then entered a Kurdish-run hair salon across the street and fired on three men. One of the wounded men in the hair salon managed to stop him and hold him until police arrived, the prosecutor’s statement said.
He told investigators he didn’t know his victims, and described all “non European foreigners” as his enemies, the statement said.
Two of the injured were still hospitalized Sunday with leg injuries.
Investigators are studying his computer and phone, but haven’t found any confirmed links to extremist ideology, the statement said.
On Saturday, members of France’s Kurdish community and anti-racism activists joined together in a demonstration of mourning and anger. The gathering was largely peaceful, with marchers holding portraits of the victims.
Some youths threw objects and set a few cars and garbage bins on fire, and police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd. A spokesperson for the Kurdish Democratic Council in France said the violence began after some people drove by waving a Turkish flag. Some of the marchers carried flags of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.
In 2013, three women Kurdish activists, including Sakine Cansiz, a PKK founder, were found shot dead at a Kurdish center in Paris.
Turkey’s army has long been battling against Kurdish militants affiliated with the banned PKK in southeast Turkey as well as in northern Iraq. Turkey’s military also recently launched a series of strikes from the air and with artillery against Syrian Kurdish militant targets in northern Syria.
Turkey, the United States and the European Union consider the PKK a terror group, but Turkey accuses some European countries of leniency toward alleged PKK members. That frustration has been the main reason behind Turkey’s continued delay of Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Sunday the violence in the Paris protests was a result of lenience toward the PKK.
“The snake France fed is now biting them. Everyone should now see the real face of this terror organization,” Akar said.
Zeynep Bilginsoy contributed to this report from Istanbul.