Rare Survivor Recounts Horror of Deadly Burundi Ambush
Fatima was one of the rare survivors of the bloody ambush on a main road in Burundi, in which 21 people, including a young British woman aid worker, were killed in cold blood.
Fatima, in her thirties, was on the bus targeted by the ambushers, probably Hutu rebels, on Thursday afternoon, not far from Bujumbura.
She believes it was "just a matter of chance" that she and her young daughter were spared.
"We were coming from Bugarama when suddenly there was lots of shooting. Our driver, wounded, wanted to avoid the bullets and veered the bus to the right," she recalled, explaining that the bus then got stuck in a ditch.
"There was lots of blood and wounded people in the bus, but nobody was dead then, I think, except perhaps a young child.
"The attackers then surrounded the bus and told us to give them our bags, money and jewelry through the windows.
"Then they made us come out one by one and sit on the side of the road with the occupants of the other two vehicles involved in the ambush.
"Still they wanted money and took clothes and training shoes from the men. They even stole my daughter's earrings. They were looking for a certain Pascal, the bus conductor. When they found him, they stripped him and killed him with a burst of gunfire to his chest," explained the survivor.
"They asked the young white woman for dollars and she said she had already given everything. She was shaking, she was afraid, but did not seem hurt. Everybody was crying, asking for pity, it was awful."
Later, the scene of the ambush was littered with bloody IDs and other documents, next to clothes and bullet shells.
"The attackers seemed to have decided to kill us all. 'You come from Rwanda to see the little Tutsis here, so you will all die,' one of them said while poking us with his Kalachnikov," said Fatima, her hands still shaking.
"All of the ones I saw, about 20 of them, were dressed in the uniform of the Burundi army, but they wore no hats or berets, just a sort of skullcap.
"I implored the man in front of me. I looked him in the eyes. Now I think he was the leader. After a few moments, he told me to get up, three times, but I could not. 'Get out of here and tell the soldiers we are here, that they can do nothing against us,' the man told me," said Fatima.
"I took my daughter in my arms and we left without looking back, slowly at first, and then running.
"After a few hundred meters (yards) I came across two other attackers hiding in the woods. 'What are you doing here, go back with the others,' one of them ordered. I thought they would shoot me. I told them their leader had let me leave. They did not keep me. They also allowed a woman in shorts and an old man, almost naked and shivering with cold and fear, to pass.
"After a few minus of walking in heavy rain I heard a solid burst of gunfire and then nothing. I did not dare return, but I think that is when they killed everybody.
"After a long silence there was some more gunfire, but less steady, certainly due to the intervention of soldiers.
"We dived into a ditch and did not move for an hour, until a local resident found us and took us to his home" -- BUJUMBURA (AFP)
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