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Mark Cobb still hears the footsteps of al Qaeda terrorists in his dreams. Steve Wysocki feels guilty he lived and so many others didn't. Nick Frazier survived an attack in which hundreds of bullets were fired. All of them thought they were going to die. Cobb, Wysocki and Frazier, three of the five Americans who survived the al Qaeda attack on an Algerian natural gas facility that resulted in the deaths of 37 people, recount their ordeals for the first time to Charlie Rose for a 60 Minutes report to be broadcast, Sunday, Feb. 10 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
Cobb is a manager for BP, one of the joint operators of the huge desert facility. He was in his office near a residential camp down the road from the gas plant when large-scale gunfire erupted. He went into a locked room with some of his co-workers, who hid him under a pile of maps in the corner. He didn't feel very safe. "If they started poking at the maps with an AK-47 or peeling maps off the top... I knew it was over," he tells Rose. He knew they were looking for Americans. "I heard them kick open the front door. That's I guess at the point, in all honesty that I felt pure terror... I elected to begin to make my calls to my family and say my goodbyes."
Cobb says he then heard the sound of doors being kicked in. Then he got lucky: his was one of only two doors the attackers failed to kick in. Soon after, determined he would not be killed or taken hostage, he escaped by running through a hole in a fence and through the desert to an Algerian Army base a half mile away. The sounds of the terrorists moving in the halls still haunt him. "The nightmares for me are all the same thing. It's the sound of those footsteps as they came down that hallway towards that door," says Cobb.
Wysocki, an oil and gas expert, was working in his office within the facility when the attack began. As he hid in his cubicle trying not to make noise, he heard something disturbing: the terrorists had found his boss, GorDon Rowan. Rowan did not survive the attack. Wysocki, feeling powerless, remembers, "I'm like, 'Why couldn't I have done something to help? And... [I] feel guilty that I was paralyzed with fear and not do[ing] anything," he tells Rose. "I'm especially guilty because they lost their lives and I didn't."
He, too, was able to eventually run to a hole in the fence and escape to safety.
Frazier, a BP petroleum engineer, was on a bus that had just left the facility when the bullets began ripping through the vehicle's windows. After a mad dash for cover on the floor of the bus, Frazier was surprised by what followed. "It was very silent, very organized. It was as if we had trained for it, but we hadn't," he says. "You could hear bullets starting to hit the side of the bus. And it wasn't one, two, or three bullets. It was... hundreds. I texted my wife, 'The bus is under attack. Call the embassy. This is real. Do not call me,'" he remembers. Watch an excerpt.
Then, a 30-minute gun battle began between their attackers and Algerian army soldiers who came to defend them. "They saved our lives," says Frazier. "They returned...heavy, heavy gunfire...they stood by the bus and shot back and kept the terrorists from getting onto the bus," he tells Rose. Then, says Frazier, the soldiers turned back another attack before taking the riders to safety.
In addition to Rowan, two other Americans were among the 37 foreign workers who lost their lives in the attack on the In Amenas facility on Jan. 16. They are Victor Lovelady and Frederick Buttaccio.