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Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, diced fennel, garlic and thyme. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until just soft and beginning to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, broth, wine and pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes.
Add potatoes and return to a simmer over medium heat. Place the clams in the shell on top of the simmering soup. Cover and cook until the vegetables are tender and the clams open, 6 to 10 minutes.
Chop the reserved fennel fronds; stir into the soup. Add chopped (or minced) clams and any clam juice; cook until just heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Discard any unopened clams before serving.