New Delhi, Jan 17 (IANS) “It was around 7.45 p.m. and I was waiting with a Burkinabe colleague of mine in the lobby of the Splendid Hotel which was filled with people,” Satya, 38, told IANS over phone from Ouagadougou, the capital of the West African nation of Burkina Faso, on Sunday recalling the terrifying ordeal.
Two Indians were among the 126 people who were rescued after terrorists, linked to the Al Qaeda, struck the luxury hotel on Friday night killing some 25 people.
One of the Indians, Satya, who works in an agro-commodities firm in the neighbouring country of Togo, was in Burkina Faso on a business trip when the terrorists attacked the hotel, one of the few big hotels in the capital of this landlocked country of about 16 million people that are surrounded by six countries.
“Suddenly a lady street vendor barged into the lobby shouting there was a man with a large rifle near the Cappuccino (cafe near the hotel). Immediately thereafter, I could hear gunfire outside – tak-tak-tak,” he said.
He said he immediately ran towards the second block of the hotel to near the lift to reach his room on the fourth floor while telling his colleague to do the same.
“On finding that the lift was on the third floor, I immediately took the stairs and rushed all the way to the fourth floor,” he said, adding his Burkinabe colleague could not do the same as he was not well and instead closeted himself in a room close to the reception area.
“On the fourth floor, I saw people coming out of their rooms on hearing the gunfire. I told them to stay in their rooms as I rushed to my room where, once inside, I barricaded the door with chairs.”
He said from the room he could see the street below – one lane on either side – which is usually a busy place.
“I saw one gunman rapidly firing at the Cappuccino smashing glasses. It was dark but I could see him under the street lights,” Satya said.
“I saw a local man lying under a 4X4 vehicle totally motionless. He must have been dead but I am not sure.
“Then I switched off all the lights and locked myself in the toilet. I could hear some activity on the corridor,” he said.
Meanwhile, knowing that Satya and the other Indian were in the hotel, Deepak Mirchandani, India’s honorary consul general in Burkina Faso, who was in Abidjan at at that time, got in touch with both of them.
“I then kept in touch with him from then on,” Satya told IANS.
“I also informed my immediate superior Pramod Srivastava, based in Accra, who then got in touch with Dharmendra Pathak, a Ouagadougou-based expatriate Indian. Both of them then kept in touch with me over WhatsApp, telling me to stay calm while also updating me about the situation outside.”
He said Mirchandani told him that special operations forces were on their way.
“Around 2 a.m., he (Mirchandani) told me: ‘Anytime now’,” Satya said.
“I could then hear footsteps on the terrace above my room but I was not sure who they were. Then, suddenly I heard somebody shout from the corridor in French: ‘Tse claire’ (It is clear).”
Satya said he then came out of the toilet and started packing his laptop bag quietly.
“Then I heard somebody shout in the room beside me: ‘Militaire Francais’,” he said.
Satya then started knocking the door from inside the room.
“When somebody responded, I introduced myself as an Indian and asked if I can come out,” he said.
He, along with two Chinese nationals, an Ivorian and three other African nationals were taken to a corner on the corridor.
“We were then shifted to a room, from there to another room and then to a room near the lift and the staircase,” Satya said.
“We were then escorted down the staircase to a restaurant behind the hotel’s reception area. From there people were taken in batches of nine to an armoured truck outside.”
The people were then taken to an emergency medical camp some 200 metres away where everybody was checked for injuries.
“All the people in the hotel were then taken to the national stadium where checked whether any of the attackers were among us. My ordeal ended in the evening only,” Satya recalled.
(Aroonim Bhuyan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)