Emmanuel Macron, the President of France has said that his country is under attack by terrorists, vowing however that France will not give in to terror.

He spoke, in a call for firmness and unity after the country’s latest terrorist attack left three people dead.

Speaking outside the basilica in Nice where a man armed with a knife killed two women and a man – reportedly beheading one 70-year-old woman – the president said France was under attack.

He announced that the number of soldiers patrolling the streets would more than double in the coming days and expressed his support for the Catholic community.

The attack on Thursday morning came just 13 days after an 18-year-old man beheaded Samuel Paty, 47, a history teacher, outside his high school north-east of Paris. The professor had shown pupils caricatures, including one of Prophet Muhammad published in the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, during a discussion on freedom of speech.

After Paty’s murder Macron promised to crack down on Islamist extremism, including shutting down mosques and other organisations accused of fomenting radicalism and violence. His comments sparked angry protests across the Muslim world; pictures of the president were burned and there were calls for a boycott of French goods.

Macron also made reference on Thursday to the killing in 2016 of Father Jacques Hamel, a Catholic priest whose throat was cut by two men inside his Normandy church.

“France is being attacked,” the president said. “Three of our compatriots died at the basilica in Nice today and at the same time a French consular site was attacked in Saudi Arabia.

“I want to express, first and foremost, the nation’s support for the Catholics of France and elsewhere. After 2016, with the killing of Father Hamel, it is the Catholics of our country attacked once more, and just before All Saints Day. We are at their side in order that religion can be freely exercised in our country. People can believe or not believe, all religions can be practised, but today the nation is beside our Catholic compatriots.

“My second message is to Nice and the people of Nice who have already suffered as a result of the Islamist terrorist folly. This is the third time terrorism has struck your city and you have the support and solidarity of the nation.

“If we have been attacked once again, it is because of our values, our taste for freedom; the freedom to believe freely and not give in to any terror. We will give in to nothing. Today we have increased our security to deal with the terrorist threat,” he said.

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