A state of emergency is in force in Mali after the attack on Radisson Blu hotel in the capital Bamako. Residents nearby tell of near escapes as life starts to return to normal.
The first two shots fired by the terrorists were directed at him. As on any other morning, Demba Djouba sells mobile phone pre-paid cards in front of the main entrance of the Radisson Blu Hotel in the center of Bamako. He saw a man coming towards him, who without any warning, suddenly fired a shot at him. "The shot went past just around the left side of my head," the young man recalls. Djouba immediately began to run. When he heard more shots behind him, he threw himself on the ground. "So I laid down a couple of minutes and waited. Then I heard shots from afar, so I got up and ran away as far as I could."
Sunday baguette and fear of terror
It took Mali's security forces nine hours to end the assault on the hotel. Two attackers had temporarily seized 170 people. 18 of the hostages were killed during a shootout between security forces and the assailants. The jihad group Al-Mourabitoun, founded by the Algerian Islamist Mokhtar Belmokhtar and Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM) claimed they had carried out the raid as a joint operation.
Only two days after the hostage crisis, Djouba was queuing up at a bakery directly in front of the luxury hotel. It's Sunday and he is buying baguette for his whole family. "Of course I'm still scared," Djouba said with a smile on his face. He trusts the police and military. And life must go on. "I'm especially glad that international security forces are here to support us. I was informed about how they arrived in front of the hotel shortly after the attack. This makes me feel secure."
One person engaged in providing security is queuing behind him at the bakery. The elderly man does not want to be named, but says he is a "security consultant for an international organization" in the country. On the morning of the attack, he had just came out of his apartment, which is about 200 meters from Radisson Blu hotel, when the attack started. "When I heard the first shots, I knew right away what was going on". He said he just managed to stop a bus, which was driving in the direction of the hotel, from going any further. A few minutes later, French special forces cordoned off the road.
A tour guide wants his money back
A few days later, life in front of the Radisson Blu hotel seems to have returned to normal. The small kiosk in front of the luxury hotel has opened again and waiting for customers. A group of elderly men are sitting on a wooden bench nearby and watching the world go by. Only the SUVs with TV crews wanting to film inside of the hotel are diturbing the peace and quiet. Malian security forces at the entrance of the hotel patiently tell them that as long as the forensic work has not been completed, no one is allowed inside.
Suddenly, a man who does not look like a journalist, demands access into the hotel premise. He looks a little upset. "I have paid for my reservations. Three rooms, two double rooms and a single room for two nights - that amounts to more than 1200 euros. From whom will I get my money back?" He expected the hotel to open again today and someone to refund his money. We found out from him later that he was a tour guide.
"Radisson remains one of the best hotels"
The tour guide was driving a group of American pensioners to the hotel on the morning of the attack. On their way, they got hungry and had to stop at a small restaurant around the corner of the hotel. That's where they saw news of the attack on television. The group then had to change their itinerary and are now visiting other countries in their West Africa tour. But they have decided to return to the Radisson Blu, when it opens again. "It's one of the best hotels in Bamako," according to the travel guide. "And it will continue to be so."