The chequered path of 'killed' French jihadist Fabien Clain

By

Fabien Clain, 41, a senior foreign member of the so-called Islamic State group who is reported to have been killed in an airstrike in Baghouz in Syria this week, came from the French Indian Ocean island of La Réunion and was radicalised in Toulouse, south-west France, before becoming active in a cell that sent jihadists to fight US troops in Iraq.

This article is freely available. Check out our subscription offers. Subscribe

Fabien Clain, who was killed in an air strike in Syria, according to French media, was the most senior Frenchman in the Islamic State (IS) group, best known for an audio recording in which he claimed responsibility for the November 2015 Paris attacks, reports FRANCE 24.

Clain became known as the “voice of the Paris attacks” after he read out a six-minute statement in the wake of the deadliest attacks on French soil since World War II. In the chilling video clip, Clain announced that "eight brothers wearing explosive belts and carrying assault rifles" had conducted a "blessed attack on... Crusader France."

The November 13th 2015 attacks at restaurants, bars and the Bataclan concert hall in Paris killed 130 people.

On Thursday, the US-led coalition fighting the IS group in Syria said it was verifying reports that an overnight air strike on one of the jihadists’ last holdout had killed Clain and injured his sibling, Jean-Michel. French officials are yet to confirm the reports.

“It is possible indeed that Fabien Clain was killed," French defence minister Florence Parly said on her Twitter account, adding that the French people would be relieved if the information were confirmed.

In his video after the Paris attacks, Clain warned that it was just “the beginning of the storm”.

Clain was “the French voice of the Islamic State group,” said FRANCE 24’s jihadism expert Wassim Nasr. As such, he was “a very symbolic target for France and the French people,” Nasr added.

The six-minute clip also featured his younger brother, Jean-Michel, giving a rallying cry to Muslims to “fight the infidels without ever capitulating".

The Clain brothers were well known to French intelligence services for their extensive links to local radicalised cells and networks.

A seasoned jihadist, Clain was found guilty of helping send extremists to fight US forces in Iraq in 2009 and sentenced to five years in jail. Six years later, Clain left himself for Syria to live in the IS group’s self-proclaimed caliphate.

Fabien, also known as Brother Omar, or Abu Adam Al-Faransi, converted to Islam in the 1990s and is thought to be in his early 40s. He was originally from the French Indian Ocean island of La Réunion, but later moved to mainland France.

French police believe the two Clain brother were radicalised in the early 2000s when they lived in the southern city of Toulouse and frequented radical networks.

Around the time of his 2009 sentencing, the brothers were active in the Artigat cell, in the Toulouse area of southwest France. They are believed to have been radicalised by a Frenchman of Syrian origin, Salafist preacher Olivier Corel, dubbed the "white imam".

Artigat was one of “oldest and toughest” jihadist cells in France, said FRANCE 24’s Nasr, with ties to prominent French terrorists including Mohamed Merah, who killed seven people including two Jewish children in the Toulouse area in 2012, and the Kouachi brothers, who carried out the Charlie Hebdo killings three years later.

Read more of this report from FRANCE 24.

 

Extend your reading on Mediapart Unlimited access to the Journal free contribution in the Club Subscribe