"The man came out with a machete. I fell down. He started to hack at me."
Little Souleymane was in shock, but he survived, unlike many victims of a wave of child murders in Ivory Coast, in West Africa.
The 10-year-old boy, along with many other children and women from the city of Abidjan's poor Yopougon neighbourhood, was fetching water from a well by a lagoon last Sunday when the assailant struck.
The man, nabbed later by security forces, calmly told police that God had told him "to cut off children's heads... and then I would be made king".
Those gathered at the well watched in horror as the would-be killer went after Souleymane and then another boy, before a soldier from a nearby base saw what was happening and chased the man away, AFP reported.
"I thought he had come to collect water. But he pulled out a machete. He tried to cut me up," said Cedric, 15, with his hand bandaged where he had been cut in fending off a blow.
The incident took place at a lush, green corner by the lagoon that stretches across the south of Ivory Coast's commercial capital, near the Atlantic coast.
As word spread, soldiers from the base quickly fanned out and tracked down the attacker.
Once in police custody, he reportedly confessed to at least three murders.
"Fortunately, his machete was not well sharpened," Corporal Habib Tito said after the search. "He was determined to get the two children.
"Had it not been for the presence of one of our men, the smallest boy would be dead," he said.
The man was identified as Drissa Coulibaly. He wore a red and white robe, filthy after months of living on the street.
Coulibaly told AFP from custody: "I told him (God) that I didn't want to do this but he insisted."
His goal was to win his "swords" of royalty, and he said he communicated with God by way of "angels" in the shape of crows.
At least 20 children have been less lucky than Souleymane.
In the last three months, police have opened 25 unexplained cases of child kidnappings, followed by murders, across the west African country.
They called the murder toll extremely high, saying it is "unusual".
The murders had shocked Ivorians and spread fears that the children were victims of ritual sacrifices.
Most bodies have been found "mutilated, with their genital parts missing, or decapitated", the director general of national police Brindou M'Bia, said last Friday.
"We know the typology of ritual crimes very well," interior minister Hamed Bakayoko said. "People are led to believe that through these crimes, they can gain power or money."
This article was first published on January 1, 2015.
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