New York Times correspondent Carlotta Gall tells ABC News she was assaulted by plain-clothed government security agents while reporting in Quetta, a Pakistani city near the Afghan frontier where NATO suspects the Taliban hides its shadow government.
Akhtar Soomro, a freelance Pakistani photographer working with Gall, was detained for five-and-a-half hours. According to Gall, the agents broke down the door to her hotel room, after she refused to let them enter, and began to seize her notebooks and laptop. When she tried to stop them, she says one of the men punched her twice in the face and head.
"I fell backwards onto a coffee table smashing the crockery," she recalled in a written account of the incident. "I have heavy bruising on my arms, on my temple and my cheekbone, and swelling on my left eye and a sprained knee."
THE BLOTTER RECOMMENDS
Gall says the agents accused her and Soomro of trying to meet the Taliban. They identified themselves as working for Pakistan's Special Branch, an undercover police department, but Gall said other local reporters identified them as employees from one of the country's two powerful spy agencies: Inter-Services Intelligence or Military Intelligence.
The Committee to Protect Journalists ranked Pakistan the "third most dangerous" place in the world to work in 2006, after two journalists died in violent circumstances, and more than a dozen others were abducted or assaulted by state authorities.
In its annual report, Reporters without Borders complained that in Pakistan "investigative journalists are constantly targeted by military security services, which have no hesitation in harassing anyone they find troublesome." It was the first reported incident of Pakistani agents belting a female reporter.
Gall said the Minister of State for Information, Tariq Azeem Khan, apologized for the incident and helped secure the release of the photographer and Gall's belongings. But she says he told her to inform Pakistani authorities ahead of future visits to Quetta "to avoid such difficulties."