An American State Department contractor who survived the attack on a Mali hotel Friday said he didn’t think he was going to make it out of the building alive.
Terry Kemp was one of around a dozen Americans rescued after the siege on the Radisson Blu hotel, waged by gunmen shouting “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is great.”
Kemp was about to leave for the American Embassy with another man morning Friday morning when a group of at least four men approached the hotel and opened fire, he said.
“A group of four or five men came across the street, started shooting, took out the guards,” Kemp, of Florida, recalled. “They started shooting at us, we ran back inside, at which time, I fell.
Kemp, the man he was with, and the driver got separated and Kemp found a hiding place under a table, he said. But it didn’t take long before the assailants found the room he was hiding in.
“They started shooting the room, they were standing right next to me, they never seen me,” Kemp said. “The shell casings were hitting me under the table.”
“I knew I was going to become a victim, because alls they had to do was look down underneath of there. But for some unknown reason, they never looked under there,” he said.
Kemp said he saw three people and heard the muted voices of two men and a woman.
They set fire to the room, and eventually heavy smoke made it impossible for Kemp to stay there, he said. He crawled to a different room and called authorities to update them his location so they could bring him to safety.
“From what I understand, I was one of the first ones out,” Kemp said. The ordeal “seemed like days,” he said.
Twenty people, including one American, were dead by the time the hours-long raid concluded. Two attackers were killed.
Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group Al-Mourabitoun claimed responsibility for the attack, security firm and NBC News partner Flashpoint Intelligence said.
There has been no official acknowledgment of the claim of responsibility from Mali or other countries. Security forces were searching for “more than three” suspects in the attack Saturday.
“It was senseless for what had happened, for an idea. This was senseless to execute so many people over an idea,” Kemp said, adding condolences for the families of the victims.
Kemp will be headed back to his family soon. “I’m going to hug my wife, my two sons and my two new grand-babies,” he said.