Published February 06, 2011
As Egypt lurches toward a new government spurred by massive unrest, thousands of protesters congregating in Tahrir Square Sunday were largely peaceful as they maintained vigil, calling for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to step down.
But in 13 days of demonstrations, the environment hasn't always been safe and activists as well as journalists have been targeted by pro-Mubarak backers.
Fox News correspondent Greg Palkot and cameraman Olaf Wiig were in Tahrir Square during the worst of the violence last week. When the building from which they were reporting came under siege, they were forced to flee into the streets and right into the middle of pro-government supporters.
The two were both severely beaten -- to the point they had to be hospitalized. The two have now returned to London, and in their first interview since the incident, recounted the danger they experienced.
"The main street was a total war zone, it was smoke, it was rocks being thrown, it was Molotov cocktails, it was flames, it was live fire," said Palkot, who with Wiig is a veteran reporter who's been to war zones throughout the world.
"I got grabbed and I thought at that moment, I thought, 'Ok, I'm really now in trouble,'" and it was immediately four or five people grabbing hold of you," said Wiig.
"People are all over him," Palkot said of his colleague. "Within about 30 seconds, people are all over us -- and that's where our life or death struggle began."
Palkot said he was pummeled with open hands, fists, sticks and rocks. Attackers were "principally going for the head again and again and again. The head was the target but the rest of the body is fair game too."
Wiig said he thought to himself that surely he could "talk some reason into somebody, surely this isn't, they're not going to kill us right here.' And the more they hit you, the more you realized, actually, they probably could right now."
Wiig is now sporting a bald patch at the back of his head where he was shaved so doctors could stitch up two large gashes. With a right eye that is purple and yellow, he described other injuries, including a smaller gash on his forehead.
"I've got two really good-sized lacerations on the back of my head," Wiig said, "and a stab wound in the back of my leg. My back just looks like a piece of modern art, just completely black and blue."
Pointing to a big bruise on his left temple, Palkot said he remembers a hit to the left side of his head that "blanked my vision out to some degree, blanked my hearing from my left ear to some degree, and that's when I thought I was going to go down."
The two agreed that at the start of the attack adrenaline kept them going. But knowing they had a lot to live for pushed them to try to remain conscious.
"I was absolutely not ready to die that day, you know. I've got a beautiful wife and loving family, and I just want to get back," Wiig said.
Palkot and Wiig eventually found their way to an Egyptian armored personnel carrier and were taken to the hospital. But their ordeal didn't end there. They were taken to the headquarters of the secret police, photographed and questioned before finally being released.