The US-led Operation Inherent Resolve announced the death of France's most wanted man in a tweet on Thursday evening. "A Coalition strike killed an active Daesh media official named Abu Anas al-Faransi, also known as Fabien Clain, in Baghouz," the tweet said.
Daesh is the Arab acronym for Islamic State, also known as Isis. The terrorist group has been hemmed into a small wasteland of wrecked cars and houses, tents and underbrush at Baghouz, on the Euphrates river in southeastern Syria.
Clain (41), a French convert to Islam, was known as the Voice of Daesh since he proclaimed the group’s responsibility for the massacre of 130 people in Paris on November 13th, 2015, in a 5 ½-minute audio tape condemning Paris as “the capital of abominations and perversion”.
Clain’s younger brother, Jean-Michel (38), chanted Muslim songs at the beginning and end of the tape. Jean-Michel is believed to have been seriously wounded in the same drone strike.
More than 40,000 refugees from Isis's "caliphate" are sheltering in a camp near Baghouz called al-Hole. On the eve of the strike that killed Clain, a man walked out of Baghouz and turned himself over to Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, Paris Match reported. The man hid his face and said he was an emir or leader of Isis. He was put in a car and driven away. French photographer Patrick Chauvel witnessed the scene.
Paris Match implied that the runaway informer betrayed the Clain brothers, who lived in fear of drone attacks. Eighteen members of the Clain family moved to Syria in 2014 and 2015.
Fabien was born in Toulouse in 1978, Jean-Michel two years later. Their father, a French soldier, returned to the French Indian Ocean island of La Réunion. Their mother, Marie-Rosanne, took them to Alençon, Normandy, where she taught catechism classes. Fabien studied metal-working, Jean-Michel accounting. Unlike other European jihadists who joined Islamic State, the brothers were not involved in crime.
Around 1999, under the influence of the Tunisian husband of their sister, Anne-Diana, Fabien and Jean-Michel converted to Salafist Islam. Fabien, a big, charismatic man, 1.8m tall and weighing more than 100k, converted the entire family including their parents and his and Jean-Michel’s wives.
The Clains moved back to Toulouse, because there were more Muslims than in Normandy. They sold religious trinkets and proselytised. Their wives, Mylène and Dorothée, changed their names to Fatima and Khadija, wore burqas and home-schooled their children. Locals referred to them as “the Belphegor clan” after the prince of hell.
Fabien became close to Olivier Corel, a Syrian-born imam and naturalised Frenchman who set up an Islamist colony in the Ariège department. Mohamed Merah, the "scooter killer" who murdered seven people in 2012, came from the same milieu.
After both brothers studied Arabic in Cairo, Fabien was convicted of involvement in a network that sent young Frenchman to fight in the ranks of al-Qaeda in Iraq. Jean-Michel and his family went to Syria first, followed by Fabien and his family in February 2015, just after the Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher attacks.
Jean-Michel asked Fabien to buy professional audio and video equipment before he left Toulouse. The recording that claimed responsibility for the Bataclan massacre seven months later was made with equipment that Fabien purchased with his mother’s bank loan for €3,557, Le Figaro reported.
The Clains have been linked to a botched attack on a church in a Paris suburb, in which one woman was killed. Adrien Guihal, a follower of Fabien, recorded claims for the June 2016 killing of a policeman and his companion, the July 2016 massacre in Nice and the murder of a priest in Normandy, also in July 2016.
Jonathan Geffroy, a jihadist from Toulouse who was handed over to French authorities last September, said that Jean-Michel's eldest son, Othman, now 17, has been trained to recruit French youths for suicide missions in Europe. His whereabouts are unknown.
In his last radio message, broadcast on December 28th, 2018, Fabien Clain called on Muslims to stage attacks in France. In a surreal allusion to gilets jaunes protesters, he exhorted the French to revolt against the government which "wastes your money any old way".