Feb. 17, 2005
Democratic Republic of Congo
The hotel where we are staying in Goma came under attack last night from small-arms fire starting around 8 p.m. It was automatic rifle fire, but it did not sound like Kalashnikovs. It was something bigger. We were sitting in the workspace waiting for dinner when the shooting began. It was remarkably close, just yards away, with some fire being returned from within the hotel compound.
Peter wanted to go out. I told him not to, but he went anyway, barefoot and in shorts. It kept up for a while, then stopped and you hoped it was over. Then it would start again, like a storm. I imagined gunmen coming through the window and killing us.
I thought about the options. One would be to turn off the lights and hide in the bathroom and hope that they would not come. On the other hand, if they did come you would be in the humiliating position of hiding, of inviting attack. It would be better to face them at the door. To run in the dark in the Congo would only be to move to a less safe environment. I called the foreign desk and asked them to alert the U.N. Indian troops from the U.N. were on the scene quickly. You could hear them yell on their walkie-talkies.
The attack was coming from a ragtag group of gunmen known as the Mai Mai. In recent articles eastern Congo is usually described as "lawless" and "anarchic" which is proving accurate. Peter came back with some good pictures.
There was nothing else we could do, so we ate dinner and continued to watch a movie. I went with grilled fish, which was not as good as the night before. Bony. I may go to just rice and vegetables. I have also run out of Luna bars, which are quite fine. The movie was "Zatoichi," about a blind swordsman. Very good. When the shooting got loud we would pause the movie and go to the door and look out.
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Steve Harrigan currently serves as a Miami-based correspondent for Fox News Channel (FNC). He joined the network in 2001 as a Moscow-based correspondent.