"Maybe they thought I was dead," he said.
He regained consciousness some time later, and found himself alone. He heard voices nearby. Adrenaline pumping, Diabate took off in the opposite direction. He heard gunshots, but wasn't hit. He suspects his captors believed he was dead and were spooked by the noise in the bushes.
Bloody, beaten and mostly naked, Diabate ran through the night until he came upon a woman. He's still amazed she didn't turn him away.
"God was with me. This lady could have thought I was a thief," he said.
Instead, the woman gave Diabate a pair of shorts and let him use her cellphone. Not knowing who to trust, he phoned Rob Walbridge, director of the International Community School of Abidjan.
Walbridge, an American, had first visited the Ivory Coast in the 1970s, when he was in the Peace Corps. He fell in love with the country - and a girl there - and eventually started working as a teacher.
In the 1980s he became the director of the International Community School, a kindergarten- through 12th-grade facility for the children of American diplomats. Diabate met Walbridge when he was working on his English certification at the school and had stayed in touch.
Walbridge said he could not come to get Diabate that night, but urged his friend to find a place to hide until morning. The next day, Walbridge took Diabate to the International Community School and hid him in a dormitory.
Diabate stayed at the school five days, with armed guards outside the door and Walbridge regularly bringing him food and medicine. He eventually had to leave, however, as Walbridge feared the Ivorian government would find out he was harboring a criminal.
"He said 'Siriki, you've got to leave the country,' " Diabate said.
They decided the quickest way out of the Ivory Coast was to nearby Ghana, about an eight-hour drive. The journey took Diabate more than two weeks, slowly going from town to town to evade police, sleeping a few days in each town along the way.
When he finally reached Accra, Ghana's capital city, Diabate contacted the nonprofit Media Foundation for West Africa. The group, which seeks to protect journalists under fire from their governments, had already heard about Diabate's problems in the Ivory Coast and assumed he was dead.
Workers at the Media Foundation found the French-speaking Diabate a job as a translator in the English-speaking Ghana, but also advised him to go to the U.S. Embassy and apply for refugee status.
Embassy officials contacted his editors, who also assumed Diabate was dead, and corroborated his story. In late 2006, he received a letter allowing him entrance to the United States.
"I cried at first. I said, 'At least I'll live. I'll live,' " he said.
He was still stuck in Ghana for more than a month, however. With little to do but wait, Diabate said he started frequenting a bar near his apartment. One night, he got up from the bar and went to the restroom.
As he stood at the urinal, a man came up behind him and asked if he was Siriki Diabate.
"In Ghana they speak English. This guy spoke fluent French."
Fluent French, Diabate noted, with an Ivoirian accent.
The man attacked Diabate from behind. He fought back, and the brawl spilled back into the barroom. In the confusion, Diabate noticed two other men coming for him. He managed to break free, run outside and hail a taxi.
He said there's no doubt the men were from the Ivory Coast, and came to Ghana to kill him. Diabate phoned an official at the U.S. Embassy in Ghana, who had him moved to a remote hotel.
On Jan. 23, 2007, Diabate boarded a plane for Nigeria. From Nigeria, he traveled to Germany. He flew from Germany to the United States, where he landed at exactly 8 p.m. on Jan. 24.
Diabate soon enrolled at Hagerstown (Md.) Community College, where he earned an associate's degree. He is now attending Shepherd University and is set to graduate in May 2014 with a bachelor's degree in political science.
He hopes to continue his education at West Virginia University, where he wants to get either a law degree or a master's in international politics.
Although politics drove him from his home and family, made him a fugitive and almost ended his life, Diabate said he now sees government as a tool for the greater good.
"I finally realized the government can be a strong tool to bring about change," he said.
On July 20, 2012, he became a naturalized U.S. citizen. He still has family back in the Ivory Coast, and hopes to bring his four daughters to America some day.
Even if he never becomes an elected official, Diabate said he wants to work in politics. He wants to make sure no one else has to go what he and his fellow journalists experienced.
"As democracy, it's also important for the press to let people know what the government is doing. Some friends of mine died. I didn't see them die, but we never heard about them," he said.
His work has already made a difference, at least in some small way.
Things are changing in the Ivory Coast. Gbagbo was arrested in April 2011 after refusing to leave office for new President Alassane Ouattara.
Ouattara, who served as prime minister under Houphouet-Boigny, is from the northern part of the country.
Gbagbo is currently on trial in The Hague for crimes against humanity.
"What I wrote was not fake," Diabate said. "I knew I was going to be in trouble. It was worth doing it.
"You know you're on the side of the truth."