Hunt to determine if top French jihadist killed in Syria
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The US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State armed group is working to verify if an airstrike in eastern Syria killed French jihadist Fabien Clain, dubbed the French voice of IS for his audio claiming the November 2015 attacks in Paris.
Clain is believed to have been killed in an overnight airstrike, according to security sources.
French radio FranceInfo reported that he was killed on Wednesday in a coalition strike on the Syrian town of Baghouz, the last stronghold of the Islamic State group.
The French authorities had not yet confirmed his death, a source close to the case told Reuters, adding that an investigation was underway.
Clain was identified as the man who read the message claiming that IS had carried out the 13 November 2015 Paris attacks that killed 130 people.
His brother Jean-Michel was seriously wounded in the strike, according to FranceInfo.
French officials estimate that about 100 French jihadists may still be fighting in the Baghouz area and say dozens are being held by Kurdish-led groups in northern Syria.
Returning jihadi fighters
France is in discussions with Syrian Kurdish authorities to repatriate French IS fighters and their families amid concerns about lack of security following an impending US withdrawal.
The question of what to do with foreigners who joined Islamic State when they come back remains a sensitive issue.
It may be one French authorities won't have to deal with, if reports that Clain was killed, are confirmed.
In his video after the Paris attacks, the seasoned jihadist can be heard announcing that "eight brothers wearing explosive belts and carrying assault rifles" had conducted a "blessed attack on...crusader France".
The chilling propaganda recording warned that the Paris 2015 jihadist rampage was just "the beginning of the storm", that eventually left 129 people dead and injured more than 350.
French authorities believe Clain, said to be in his early 40s, played a bigger role in the 13 November attacks than simply recording the claim.
Clain converted to Islam in the late 1990s. Like his younger brother, he is believed by French police to have become radicalised in the early 2000s when he lived in the southern city of Toulouse where he frequented radical networks.