Pen Farthing's friend likens evacuation plan to 'Dunkirk spirit'
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The former marine is currently waiting at Kabul airport to board his own charter plane, but has said he can’t get inside the compound. The founder of animal rescue charity Nowzad is also stuck with his team and 173 animals waiting for a flight home. He has hit the headlines over the past week while trying to evacuate his staff and the charity’s cats and dogs.
It comes as the final stages of the evacuation effort in Afghanistan are in further crisis after a warning that a “highly lethal” terror attack could be launched within hours.
Mr Farthing wrote on Twitter: “Dear Sir; my team and my animals are stuck at airport circle.
“We have a flight waiting.
“Can you please facilitate safe passage into the airport for our convoy?
“@suhailshaheen1 We are an NGO who will come back to Afghanistan but right now I want to get everyone out safely.
“We have been here for 10 hours after being assured that we would have safe passage.
“Truly would like to go home now.
“Let’s prove the IEA are taking a different path.”
The US forces, who control the airport, will make the decision about whether Mr Farthing, along with his team and animals, get on the plane.
They are reported not to be in the highest “priority” group as they are not deemed “at-risk”, so there is a chance they might miss their plane.
Defence secretary, Ben Wallace, said on Monday that the UK Government had granted visas for Mr Farthing, his workers and their dependants, which totalled 68 people.
He said at the time: “Now that Pen Farthing’s staff have been cleared to come forward… I have authorised MoD to facilitate their processing alongside all other eligible personnel at HKIA [Kabul airport].
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“At this stage, if he arrives with his animals we will seek a slot of his plane. If he does not have his animals with him, he and his staff can board an RAF flight.”
However, Sky News reported this morning that Mr Wallace had reportedly complained to MPs that British military efforts to evacuate people from Kabul had been “diverted” because of the attempts to rescue the animals.
Mr Wallace told a meeting of MPs: “What I was not prepared to do is prioritise pets over people, I’m afraid you might dislike me for that but that’s my view, there are also some very, very desperate people under real threat.”
Mr Farthing previously shared his fears over his pets potentially baking to death in their travel crates if they were left in limbo much longer.
Ex-marine 'ready to go’ to escort stranded Afghan animals to safety
He also made a midnight journey to the airport in convoy with his team after receiving notice from Mr Wallace that they could get a private charter plane back to the UK.
But they almost didn’t even make it to the airport after being stopped at a Taliban checkpoint.
Mr Farthing told The Sun: “About 15 guys jumped out and levelled their guns at us.
“Then one of them had an ND [a negligent discharge]. Luckily he was a s*** shot and it went over our heads.
“I very rarely hear Afghans swear in English but I heard a few words then.”
“We’ve got hours now before animals start dying. There are some in the middle we can’t reach and we can’t start unloading them because it will attract too much attention. It is getting really desperate.
“We have permission to leave. We are in touch with the British forces but they say they are powerless to help.”
Meanwhile, Armed forces minister James Heappey said today there is “very credible reporting” of an “imminent” and “severe” threat to Kabul airport.
He called on those queuing outside Hamid Karzai International Airport to move to safety due to concerns about this happening.
The threat is now adding extra pressure on the operation to help people flee the nation, which has been captured by the Taliban, with Tuesday’s deadline for foreign troops to leave quickly approaching.
Mr Heappey told BBC Breakfast: “The credibility of the reporting has reached the stage where we believe there is a very imminent, a highly lethal, attack, possible within Kabul.
“And, as a consequence, we’ve had to change the travel advice to advise people not to come to the airport, indeed to move away from the airport, find a place of safety and await further instruction.”
He told LBC radio the possible attack could come within “hours”, adding: “I don’t think anybody should be surprised by this – Daesh, or Islamic State, are guilty of all sorts of evil.
“But the opportunism of wanting to target a major international humanitarian mission is just utterly deplorable but sadly true to form for an organisation as barbarous as Daesh.”
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