As soon as the shooting began, Alam (pseudonym), along with two other colleagues and a Japanese diner, ran into the office at Holey Artisan Bakery.
What would have been a regular day at work for Alam turned into a hellish nightmare at 8:30pm when five armed gunmen stormed into the restaurant shooting randomly at patrons dining al-fresco.
The gunmen besieged the restaurant and found the group hiding in the room and said: “You people don’t have to be afraid, we won’t kill the Muslims, we came here to kill non-Muslims and people who are destroying the Muslim world.”
Alam, who was sure he was going to die the minute the gunmen opened the door, felt a sense of relief before he realised they had a Japanese man within their tiny group.
As the gunmen directed the Bangladeshis out of the office leaving the Japanese behind, Alam heard a gunshot, his blood running cold.
They were then taken to the main dining area along with the other employees and Bangladeshi diners and made to sit on the floor with their heads under the table.
There were 22 staff members who were on duty at Holey Artisan Bakery, Alam said. Among them, 12 were taken to the main dining area. Eight others were hiding inside one of the bathrooms, and two managed to escape when the siege began.
What follows next made Alam vomit compulsively as he heard people being brought in, one after another to be killed while they screamed and begged for life.
The lights were off, he did not dare lift his head to see the faces of the people or open his eyes to see the pools of blood flooding under his legs; all he could do was feel his clothes get wet and his nose fill with the smell of fresh blood.
Alam was unaware of how much time had passed during each execution, his phone had been confiscated by the gunmen, who were loaded with AK47 look-alike assault rifles, grenades, machetes and pistols.
He could hear them talking to each other, then talking to people on the phone and sending text messages but he thinks this was through the internet because it took hours for the internet connection to be severed in the area.
During the course of the siege, Alam tired to recall if these men had ever been at the restaurant before but he could not seem to recall these faces. The terrorists were young men – not even 30 – dressed like any young men would, in casual clothes.
He heard them talk in Bangla but he cannot confirm if they were taking orders from someone else.
They kept saying: “Do not worry, we are here to kill foreigners and non-Muslims. You should pray to God, pray five times a day.”
He still feared that he would never see another dawn.
Then light broke and still nothing, his head buried under the table. His clothes soaked in pools of blood, Alam finally heard more gunshots and hoped help had finally arrived.
Commandos stormed the restaurant at 7:30am and after an hour he was freed. He does not know how his captors died. He was free.
Alam says he has been having flashbacks since his release from the DB office. He is out but he is not free. He does not think he will ever be.