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An investigation has been opened in Saturday night’s knife attack in Paris. The case is being treated as a suspected terrorist attack. In a series of tweets, the French president, Emmanuel Macron, said his thoughts were with the victims of the attack and praised the “courage” of police who “neutralised the terrorist”.

The suspected knifeman was said to be in his 20s and of “north African appearance”. Prosecutors cited witnesses as saying the man shouted “Allahu akbar” (God is greatest) as he went on the rampage, and added that a terror investigation had been launched. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility, according to the SITE monitoring group.

“The executor of the stabbing operation in the city of Paris is a soldier of the Islamic State and the operation was carried out in response to the calls to target the coalition states,” a “security source” told IS’s official Amaq news agency, according to SITE.

Emmanuel Macron said that “France is paying in blood once again, but it will not give one inch to the enemies of freedom,” he wrote.

The interior minister, Gérard Collomb, hailed the “sangfroid” and quick response of police who shot the attacker. “My first thoughts are with the victims of this odious act,” he tweeted.

The Guardian reports that a waiter on duty near the opera house, named only as Jonathan, described the attack, which happened in front of his restaurant. “The attacker was walking in the street, armed with a knife. He had a lot of blood on his hands. He was walking in the road and stopping at all the shops. He was threatening everyone who crossed his path.” He added: “He threatened a woman and her companion came to defend her and was threatened as well. Then he moved on to the next restaurant and attacked it. I wasn’t particularly worried, I was under the impression he was mad or drugged up.”

France 24 reminds readers that France has suffered a series of major Islamist attacks over the past three years, including the massacre at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, the November 2015 attacks that killed 130 in Paris, and the 2016 Bastille Day truck attack in Nice.

A state of emergency put in place just after the 2015 Paris attacks was lifted in October when Macron’s centrist government passed a new law boosting the powers of security forces.

Thousands of French troops remain on the streets under an anti-terror operation known as Sentinelle, patrolling transport hubs, tourist hotspots and other sensitive sites.