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Islamic State claims responsibility for Paris stabbing attack that killed 1, wounded 4

Islamic State claims responsibility for Paris stabbing attack that killed 1, wounded 4
Police officers secure the area after a knife attack in central Paris on Saturday. (Thibault Camus / Associated Press)

A knife-wielding attacker killed a 29-year-old man and injured four other people in a lively neighborhood near Paris' famed Palais Garnier opera house before he was killed by police in the French capital Saturday night, authorities said. Islamic State claimed the attacker as one of its "soldiers."

Counter-terrorism authorities took charge of the investigation, and President Emmanuel Macron vowed that France would not bow to extremists despite being the target of multiple deadly attacks in recent years.

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Paris police evacuated people from some buildings in the Right Bank neighborhood after the attack, which happened on Rue Monsigny about 9 p.m. Bar patrons and operagoers described surprise and confusion in the immediate area.

Beyond the police cordon, crowds still filled nearby cafes and the city's nightlife resumed its normal pace soon after the suspect was reported as having been "neutralized" by police.

The unidentified attacker targeted five people and then fled, according to Paris police and a witness. When officers arrived minutes later, he threatened them and was shot to death, police union official Yvan Assioma said.

Authorities were working to identify the attacker and anyone who might have helped him, Interior Minister Gerard Collomb told reporters Sunday.

Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said counter-terrorism authorities were leading the investigation on charges of murder and attempted murder in connection with terrorist motives.

"At this stage, based on the one hand on the account of witnesses who said the attacker cried 'Allahu akbar' while attacking passersby with a knife, and given the modus operandi, we have turned this over to the counter-terrorist section of the Paris prosecutor's office," Molins told reporters at the scene.

Islamic State news agency Amaq said in a statement early Sunday that the assailant carried out the attack in response to the group's calls for supporters to target members of the U.S.-led military coalition squeezing the extremists out of Iraq and Syria.

The Amaq statement did not provide evidence for its claim or details on the assailant's identity.

France's military has been active in the coalition since 2014, and Islamic State adherents have killed more than 200 people in France in recent years, including the 130 who died in the coordinated November 2015 attacks in Paris.

Macron tweeted his praise for police who "neutralized the terrorist" and said that "France is once again paying the price of blood but will not cede an inch to enemies of freedom."

The attack took place near many bars and theaters as well as the opera.

France's BFM television interviewed an unnamed witness in a restaurant who said a young woman was at the entrance when "a man arrived and attacked her with a knife." A friend came to her aid and the attacker left, "hitting on all the doors, all the shops," the witness told BFM. He turned onto another street, and everyone scattered, the witness said.

"I was having a drink with friends and we heard a boom," a witness named Gloria, who had been in a nearby bar, told reporters at the scene. She said she went outside to see what happened and "saw a guy lying on the ground."

Another witness described leaving the opera house and being told to go back inside because of the attack.

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Collomb said the lives of the four injured people were no longer in danger.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said it took police less than nine minutes to subdue the attacker from the moment they were alerted. "This speed, calm and effectiveness allowed them to avoid ... a much heavier toll," he told reporters.

French police have been criticized in the past for failing to prevent attacks.

Paris authorities called for calm and understanding.

"Whatever the motivations of this odious act, let us remain united and standing," Deputy Mayor Bruno Julliard tweeted.

UPDATES:

7 p.m.: This article was updated with more information on the police response and comments from Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and Deputy Mayor Bruno Julliard.

4:35 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from French President Emmanuel Macron and Paris prosecutor Francois Molins, as well as a statement from Islamic State news agency Amaq claiming responsibility for the attack.

3:45 p.m.: This article was updated with details on the attack, comments from witnesses and the arrival of the Paris prosecutor.

This article was originally published at 2:25 p.m.

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