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Spanish army
Ministry of Defence
Spanish army

Ejército de Tierra

Yes To Everything

Now there is no point in asking: 'Where will be written the story of those soldiers who shared our days and who are now tracing with their deeds the most modern epic story of the Spanish Army?.' Maybe poets and writers will soon appear to write about them, but, in the meantime, their adventures will collected in the 'Tierra' newspaper. And our series kicks off in Bamako (Mali.)

Major Franco, protagonist of our story

Major Franco, protagonist of our story.

At thet preciste point (15.30), he was listening to a song whose title he could not recall later, as he rested under the branches of the trees where he had eaten a pizza before. He was touching his mobile phone, showing that he was also son of these modern times, and he was enjoying a day off, sharing with his partners of mission simple activities such as an entertaining conversation, a bath in the swimming pool or the taste of a piece of fruit.

At the tourist resort of Le Campement, located at the outskirts of the capital, Bamako, nothing was different. For security reasons, the hotel counts with armed staff devoted to the protection of its guests, and it is placed in an arid, rocky area covered by smal bushes and scarce vegetations. Its premises are divided into two areas: a flat one in the northern part with rural lodgings and a small pool, and another one, that spreads over a hillside, to the south, with access control, three small swimming pools at different heights, a zip line and two restaurants, with a roof made of tree branches.There were around 50 people, guests and workers, in Le Campement that day. Twelve members of the EU Training Mission went there to spend some hours of rest, among them, a major of the Spanish Army.

 

 Day off.


Day off. Sketch: Esteban

He was only wearing a red swimsuit

He was only wearing a red swimsuit. Sketch: Esteban

Armed terrorists attacked the resort

Armed terrorists attacked the resort. Sketch: Esteban

He was wearing a red swimsuit. He had left his white T-shirt with black pictures and his flip-flops next to a chair. It was 15:40 on 18th June 2017. Suddenly, through his earphones, he heard a sound he identified as a shot. Quickly, he threw his earphones to the floor, he stood up and tried to find the origin of the fire to guide everyone, who, did not what to do at first, to the escape route he considered to be the safest. With this firsst reaction, the major Miguel Ángel Franco saved many lives when he started to shout: 'Go!, go!, go!; attack!, attack!, attack!'»; gesturing at everyone with whom he could make contact, telling them to head to the adjacent hill and beginning to run in that direction.

At that moment, the loud noise of the attack could be heard, and the discipline and experience accuulated in the manoeuvres was revealed, the the many missions upon their shoulders. Each one looked for the refuge they could fin as bullets whistled everywhere. Most of them moved towards the central area with Miguel Ángel. A woman with Nordic aspect who was carrying a baby in one arm and a young girl in the other protected in the same position as him. He girl was crying desperately and, with gestures, Miguel Ángel, told her mother to try to calm her, in order not to be found, and to hide in the grass. When he was able to, as they heard the shots, he made his first call to the centre of operations centre, whistling as low as he could, in order not to report his position: «I am O34, Major Franco, we are under an attack in Le Campement, we need support, call the Gendarmerie»

The fast escape left the terrorists with no time to surround the position, and only the people who were close to them in the first bursts were shot. Two of the victims were at the bar of the medium swimming pool. Another victim had a heart attack during the attack, and the fourth one was a partner from the Portuguese Army. The first sergeant was sunbathing beside the pool and he probably was reached by any of the shots that came from everywhere in the initial moments.

 

A baby cried in the grass.

A baby cried in the grass. Sketch: Esteban

'A weapon!' Miguel Ángel, barefoot and with his feet injured by the cuts made by the pebbles, and only wearing a red swimsuit, needed a weapon to defend all the people who followed them, obeying his indications as if they were the only hope. A weapon that could bring the good luck to defend from the AK-47 that their attackers were holding.

 

They were about 50 metres away from the starting point, in a higher area, sharp and rocky, with a few bushes so that all could hide. When looking around, Miguel Ángel realised that a partner of other nationality was carrying a rucksack. He asked them if he was carrying a weapon, he replied yes and he asked him to give it to him. A 9-mm gun with 14 cartridges in the magazine could might not be enough to face the Kalashnikov, but at least it would help them save time before they could be rescued.

A short weapon facilitated the evacuation.

A short weapon facilitated the evacuation. Sketch: Esteban

He suddenly spotted a terrorist approaching. It was a man wearing a black turban, covering his neck and head. The skin in his arms was neither pale nor dark. He was carrying an  AK-47 rifle and moved uphill, tracking all the bushes, from left to right, searching for people who had fled. The terrorist approached their position aiming at everywhere, but still without having spotted them. 70 metres, 60 metres... At that moment Major Miguel Ángel Franco told everyone who were hiding there to andandon their position and take the way to the Southwest when the shooting started.

Miguel Ángel ran fast to the battle, knowing that it was unavoidable, and the adopted the most possible stable position, aiming at the terrorist, 50 metres. He was too far to make effective fire on him, and he knew that if he anticipated to the ideal moment, he had many possibilities of erring, report his position,  be in disadvantage and lose the surprise factor, which is one of the main principles when in combat. So he decided to wait for him to get as close as possible. The wait seemed like eternity. The weapon was not his, and it occurred to him that the weapon and the ammunition might not work when he needed them... 20 metres, 15 metres. Then, the terrorist stopped, aware of the presence of the people refuged there, and shootinh his weapon, he openeed fire.

Simultaneously, Migual Ángel made several shots as he sat up, getting the terrorist to stop shooting. This allowed him to make a small advance of or 2 metres, that stopped the terrorist and made him stop following him. At that point, he started receiving shots from another origin of fire, which forced him to stop his action and start this retreat uphill. He could feel the shots impacting all around him. He is still unable to understand how none of them reached his body. Jumping from one point to another, looking for shelter, he managed to get out of there.

 

El comandante tuvo que ser evacuado

The major had to be evacuated. Sketch: Esteban

As he kept going up, with his feet bleeding (he wa still barefoot) and in intense pain, he encourage everyone to do the same: «Go!, go!, go!, up to the hill!, dont stop! . From the distance he observed how the terrorists had set fire to the premises and, with all the means at his disposal, he tried to provide his location to prevent the forces who were coming to rescue them to comb the area where they found themselves. At arounf 16:50 they started to hear shots from 12.70-mm weapons coming from the lowest part of the hill, and that meant that the rescue forces were facing the terrorists.

He decided to maintain his position because he thought that any movement could inform agains them, and from there they could see the Malian forces reaching Le Campement. At about 18:00 a Spanish extraction team contacted him, and hearing these words in Spanish, sweet to their ears, made him extremely happy. Betwwen 18:15 and 18:37 he made and received multiple calls, until they identified a hill from where they could do the rescue. It was turn to walk up to the border. Then he realised that thirst was drying him up, and when he decided to stand up, he noticed how blood run along his knees and feet. He advanced a couple of metres and then fell to the ground, He understood that the best thing for the group was to walk up and that he covered them with the four cartridges left.

Two Dutch women, in tears, refused to abandon him, He stood up several times, saying to them that he was fine and asking them not to worry. When the intensity of the pain did not let him move, he walked the last 30 metres, crawling on his back, with just one arm. Then he heard on the radio a conversation that was taking place no further than 15 metres and shouted: «We're here!, We're here!».

Once help was there, he whole group gathered and Miguel Ángel, unable to walk, was carried on the shoulders of a member from the rescue team. Once again, Aeneas moved away from the flames and the combat after having fought fiercely in an image that keeps repeating from time to time in the least expected places of the planet, while Virgil's words, as a litany, flew over the Malian sky when distinguishing in the dim ligh of dusk the profile of Major Miguel Ángel Franco on the shoulders of another Spanish soldier who helped him. 'Get on my neck, I'll carry you on my arms, and the load won't be heavy for me. No matter what happens, the danger will be common, common the salvation for both.' And Miguel Ángel carried him over his neck in the afternoon of 18th July 2017, the lives of many civilians who were at the hotel Le Campement in the outskirts of Bamako, spend a hot day off. At 15:40 that afternoon was sitting at thr edge of the swimming pool, listening to a song whose title he could not recall later.