OUAGADOUGOU // “We didn’t know if we would get out. We tried calling our families, to tell them we weren’t sure we were going to see them again,” said Suzanne Songa-Ouedraogo, her voice trembling as she recalled Friday night’s militant attack that killed 29 people in the Burkina Faso capital.
The Burkinabe artist, one of the survivors of the hours-long assault, was treated on Saturday afternoon at the Yalgado-Ouedraogo hospital for a gunshot wound to the arm.
She lay bleeding in the dark for more than seven hours in a meeting room at the Splendid Hotel, one of the attackers’ targets, listening as the assailants shouted and fired their weapons metres away.
Lucien Trabi, an arts manager from the Ivory Coast, was in the alfresco Taxi-Brousse bar across the street from the hotel to have a drink when “five jihadists, two of them women, walked by”.
Though several witnesses have spoken of seeing two women, the country’s interior security minister on Saturday night denied that was the case, speaking only of “three men”.
“The landlady said, ‘Why are they dressed like that’. They were wearing gloves and I saw a Kalashnikov. They passed us and went to the Cappuccino cafe [another of the sites attacked]. There, suddenly, they started spraying everyone with bullets. Above all they were looking for expats,” Mr Trabi said.
“We hid in an apartment, high up. You could see the jihadists, they were firing away and crying out ‘Allahu Akbar’ into the night.”
In the early hours of the morning, once the firing had stopped, Mr Trabi made the mistake of wanting to leave to get some rest, only to come face to face with a jihadist.
“He was young, 19 or something like that. He made a gesture for me to come. I thought it was the end. So I pushed a crate of beer on top of him and fled. He fired – tatatata – and I dived on to the floor.
“I hurt my knee and crawled away. It wasn’t until afterwards I felt I’d been shot” in the back by the shoulder. “There was blood everywhere,” he said.
“Later, the Red Cross took us away and, when we went past the Cappuccino, I saw four corpses, two of them white women, it wasn’t pretty. I was lucky,” Mr Trabi recalled. “Now when I close my eyes I can hear the voice of that bastard jihadist.”
The situation was no less desperate at the hotel, according to Songa-Ouedraogo’s account. “We heard shots and at first thought it was firecrackers. But then we immediately shut ourselves in a meeting room and switched off the lights. They fired, breaking down the door, bursting through and shooting at everyone,” she said. Five of the 14 people there were shot.
“You could hear them [the attackers] speaking in their language. We couldn’t understand, there was firing everywhere. It was a nightmare.”
* Agence France-Presse