Syria: A prominent French militant who joined the Islamic State group, Jean-Michel Clain, died over the weekend from wounds suffered in an earlier air strike that killed his jihadi brother, his wife said on Tuesday as she emerged from the group’s last pocket of land in Syria.
The wife, who identified herself only as Dorothee, said another French woman who had joined IS, Hayat Boumeddiene, was killed in another strike in Syria last week. Boumeddiene had been wanted by French police as a suspected accomplice in a 2015 attack in the Paris region.
Dorothee was one of hundreds of people who on Tuesday streamed out of Baghouz, the last village held by the Islamic State group, under stepped-up assault the past four days by US-backed forces.
The latest wave of evacuations brings the final defeat of IS by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces one step closer — a milestone in the devastating four-year campaign to defeat the group’s so-called “caliphate” that once covered a vast territory straddling both Syria and Iraq.
Dorothee, who is also French, told the Associated Press that the situation inside Baghouz was a “horror film,” saying there is a “massacre” inside, with constant shooting.
People had to lay flat to avoid the crossfire, she said, adding that her 7-year-old daughter was killed and her other daughter wounded by an explosion two weeks ago.
Speaking at a desert reception area where SDF fighters were screening the evacuees, the 38-year-old said she does not want to go back to France and that she wants “France to leave me alone.”
Her account closes a chapter on a number of French militants who were connected to attacks in past years in and around Paris and who then made their way to IS’s “caliphate” and finally, as it crumbled, to this tiny village on the Euphrates River near the Iraqi border.
Her husband, Jean-Michel Clain, was wounded in a Feb 20 airstrike in Baghouz that killed his brother, Fabien, one of Europe’s most wanted IS members.
The US-led coalition announced Fabien’s death several days after the strike. The two brothers joined IS together and Fabien went on to become the group’s voice in France. Fabien’s voice was on an IS recording claiming responsibility for the worst terrorist violence in France’s modern history — a series of bombings and shootings in Paris in November 2015 that killed 130 people.
Jean-Michel held on for a little over a week after the airstrike. Dorothee said she tried to treat him, but his feet were torn apart and one side of his body was crushed. “He suffered,” she said. “There was no hospital.” He died on Sunday, she said.
Boumeddiene was killed in a separate airstrike in Baghouz about a week ago, Dorothee said. Other French citizens who left Baghouz on Tuesday said Boumeddiene was believed to have been staying in a house used by French citizens that was hit last week.