Saturday, 8 December, 2001, 21:33 GMT
UK journalist beaten by Afghan mob
Robert Fisk, pictured in 1991
Robert Fisk said he was lucky to survive
A British journalist is recovering after being beaten and pelted with stones by Afghan refugees in Pakistan.

Veteran foreign correpsondent Robert Fisk, 55, who writes for The Independent newspaper, was set upon after his car broke down as he drove near the border city of Quetta.

Mr Fisk, who suffered facial, hand and head injuries, said: "It was a very frightening experience and I am in a lot of pain but I am glad to be alive.

"I'm going to bear the scars for the rest of my life - sadly I broke down in the wrong place at the wrong time."

The Middle East correspondent was attacked when his car overheated and broke down close to a village housing refugees from Afghanistan.

Bandaged and bleeding Robert Fisk
Mr Fisk said he did not blame the refugees for their anger

He got out of the vehicle and was attempting to push it to the side of the road when a group of 40 to 50 people gathered.

"At first they were reasonably friendly but then a little kid threw a stone at me. More stones followed and then I find myself being punched and beaten in the face.

"My glasses were smashed and my spare glasses were ripped away from me. I was covered in blood and couldn't see anything. I was obviously frightened."

Mr Fisk said he fought back and began lashing out at the mob, whose numbers had now swelled to about 100.

He knocked a couple of his attackers to the ground but was then rescued by a Muslim religious leader, who forced the mob back and guided him to a police wagon.

"Without his intervention I would now be dead," he said.

'I can understand'

But Mr Fisk said he could understand the refugees' anger, as many had relatives who had been killed by the US bombing of Afghan city Kandahar last week.

They had every reason to be angry... If I had been them, I would have attacked me

Robert Fisk
"It doesn't excuse them for beating me up so badly but there was a real reason why they should hate Westerners so much.

"I don't want this to be seen as a Muslim mob attacking a Westerner for no reason. They had every reason to be angry - I've been an outspoken critic of the US actions myself. If I had been them, I would have attacked me."

Mr Fisk is not the first UK journalist to be injured since the US-led action in Afghanistan began.

Last month ITV news correspondent Andrea Catherwood sustained minor injuries in a Taleban suicide attack near the Afghan city of Kunduz, which killed three people and seriously wounded a Northern Alliance commander.

Eight killed

BBC reporter William Reeve escaped unhurt when a bomb landed in the building next to his Kabul office.

And eight journalists have been killed - the latest a Swedish TV cameraman shot dead in a believed robbery attempt on his home.

Two French and one German reporter were killed in northern Afghanistan in a Taleban ambush on an opposition convoy.

An Australian, Afghan, Italian and Spanish press group were shot dead in an ambush on the road to Jalalabad.

There is also growing concern for a Canadian journalist who is believed to be being held hostage for ransom in the Afghanistan border town of Spin Boldak.

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