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Americans in Algeria: Surviving a terrorist attack

First-hand accounts of the deadly assault describe it as well-planned and well-executed, reaffirming the potent threat of al Qaeda

The following is a script from "Attack in Algeria" which aired on Feb. 10, 2013. Charlie Rose is the correspondent. Howard L. Rosenberg and Julie Holstein, producers.

Three weeks ago, al Qaeda fighters launched a bold, deadly attack on a gas processing plant in North Africa and killed 37 foreign workers. Survivors said the assault was well-planned and well-executed. Though details about the identities and motives of the invaders remain murky, the attack is evidence that the threat from al Qaeda is still potent. And the group's goal remains the same: to attack Americans and other Westerners where ever they may be, even on a barren patch of the Sahara desert. There were eight Americans at the Algerian gas plant when the terrorists struck. Three died. Five survived. Tonight you'll hear for the first time from three of them.

Steve Wysocki: I was a hundred percent sure I was going to die.

Charlie Rose: So each of you thought you were going to die?

Steve Wysocki: Yes.

Nick Frazier: Absolutely certain.

Mark Cobb: There was no doubt in my mind that a lot of people were going to die through this event.

The event -- a three-pronged attack -- unfolded before dawn on Wednesday, January 16. Thirty-two al Qaeda fighters stormed this sprawling natural gas field.

They sprayed buildings and vehicles with automatic weapons and launched rocket-propelled grenades.

These three men -- Nick Frazier, Mark Cobb and Steve Wysocki -- all worked for the oil company BP, all witnessed the simultaneous assaults. They showed us where they were on a satellite photo of the gas field.

Steve Wysocki: My office was approximately right there.

Wysocki, an oil and gas well expert, was at the main production plant in a small office building.

Mark Cobb: I was actually located in this building right here.

Cobb, BP's manager at the facility was in his office near the residential camp, home to 800 workers, mostly Algerians.

Frazier, a petroleum engineer, was on a bus bound for a nearby town. It had just pulled out of the main gate.

Nick Frazier: I heard something. And my initial reaction was, "Oh no, we've blown a tire. We're going to be here forever."

Charlie Rose: It sounded like a blown tire?

Nick Frazier: Yeah. Then I looked out the left hand window. And I saw dozens and dozens and dozens of red streaks pass the left-hand side of the bus.

Charlie Rose: You were under attack?

Nick Frazier: Yes. People started to scramble. And then bullets started to come through the front windshield. Everyone was, as fast as they could, getting to where they could lay down in the walkway of the seats and get as flat as possible. I don't know. Everyone was so calm. You just--you become so calm. It wasn't how I thought I would re-- have reacted at all.

Charlie Rose: No screaming? No--

Nick Frazier: It was very silent, very organized. It was as if we had trained for it, but we hadn't. You could hear bullets starting to hit tthe side of the bus. And it wasn't one, two, or three bullets. It was hundreds. It was just constant on the side of the bus. I texted my wife, "The bus is under attack. Call the embassy. This is real. Do not call me."