Saturday, 6 February 2016
Somalia beach attack: Survivor tells of ordeal at hands of al-Shabab
The 21 January attack by al-Shabab on a popular beachside restaurant in the Somali capital Mogadishu has now claimed more than 40 lives. Many of the victims died from their injuries in the days following the attack. Nasro Dahir Abukar was at the Beach View Cafe when the militants struck. Here, she gives her personal survival story.
I was with my younger brother Eyman. We were were having tea, looking out at the sea, enjoying the sight and sound of the waves. It was one of those wonderful moments in life.
Suddenly, shooting started on the side of the restaurant which spreads out onto the beach. We all got up and started running away, except those who were hit by the bullets.
As the gunfire got louder and louder, most of the people who had been sitting on the beach side of the restaurant fell down on to the sand.
I didn't see Eyman after he ran away, so I started shouting for him and running at the same time.
I fell down, but someone gave me a hand and I couldn't tell if he knew me or not. He pulled me towards where the kitchen and toilets were.
Those of us who had run for our lives went to hide in the toilets and shut ourselves inside, standing by the hand-wash area.
Even though praying is forbidden inside toilets, quietly I started reciting verses of the Koran and Hadith [the stories and traditions of Muhammad's life], praying that Allah would protect us from these evil cowards.
I wondered whether I would survive or be killed.
My thoughts also turned to my little brother Eyman. I wasn't sure if he had escaped the restaurant in time. I started shouting: "Eyman, Eyman, Eyman!"
I remembered how much my mother loved Eyman, since he was her youngest child.
I thought of how she would react to the news of our death. Eyman was not just the youngest, but my mother's only son, after she had lost her other son two years ago.
She still feels his loss now.
I prepared for the worst.
As the gunfire intensified, I thought about what would happen to our family.
I would take the blame for Eyman's death; it was my idea to bring him to Liido beach after all. "Why did I bring him with me?" I asked myself over and over.
Now, some of the bullets entered the toilet, hitting some of those I was hiding with, whose blood now poured over me.
The attackers threw bombs inside the restaurant and the attack kept getting stronger and stronger.
I could hear the cries of babies and women, of explosions and gunfire.
People were crying out: "LaaIllaaha Illalaah", which is a phrase to use when someone is on the verge of death and asking Allah for forgiveness.
But their cries made the attackers realise that there were people still alive, so they increased their fire towards us, until we asked everyone to shut their mouths and stay silent.
Now the restaurant was in darkness. The only lights we could see were came from the bullets flying through the air.
I lay on the floor, with blood running all around me. Injured people were on top of me and I couldn't say a word.
I assumed Eyman was already dead and that I was about to die too.
But then, hope came.
Some special forces from the National Intelligence Service Agency (NISA) had arrived.
They came to the window, signalling to us with lights.
Then they started breaking down a section of the wall near the window.
First, they told those who were wounded and the women to come forward. They kept telling us to come to them, but we were still in shock and didn't know what to do.
Then one of the special forces team, whose face was covered, raised his hand and asked me to come.
He had a gun in one hand and he pushed my hand, asking me to move forward.
He pulled my body and forced me to come out of the building.
When I got outside, I checked my body to see whether I was injured or not.
Luckily I was okay, except the pain throughout my body from when I had fallen down onto the floor, and people had trodden on me as they rushed to escape.
I was covered in shards of glass. The sounds of bombs and gunfire was fresh in my mind.
Then, they told me "yes" - my brother Eyman was safe.
I thought of the brave soldier who had chosen to risk his life in order to save us. The attack was still going on while the soldier was rescuing us, and we could hear the sounds of bombs and bullets all around.
I owe my life to this soldier and if I had seen his face or knew his name, I would try to find him so I could thank him personally for what he did.
I give my thanks to Allah, and to this solider who helped me survive the attack.
The soldier was so kind, professional, compassionate, committed and determined to save our lives.
I know that his mission was to save people trapped in the restaurant, and every girl or boy that he saved was also his duty, but my feelings of gratitude and appreciation are so deep.
So if you are reading this article, know that you are a brave soldier and only Allah can repay your sacrifices to humankind.