A former British soldier who runs an animal shelter in Kabul was caught in the “chaos” after a series of blasts ripped through the Hamid Karzai International Airport on Thursday. Paul ‘Pen’ Farthing, who was trying to leave Afghanistan along with his staff and hundreds of dogs and cats, is now being assisted by the UK government to leave the country.
Britain’s Ministry of Defence confirmed in a statement on Friday: “Pen Farthing and his pets were assisted through the system at Kabul airport by the UK Armed Forces. They are currently being supported while he awaits transportation. On the direction of the Defence Secretary, clearance for their charter flight has been sponsored by the UK Government.”
Farthing, who runs an NGO called Nowzad, had previously tweeted that he and his team had entered the airport perimetre, but were turned away after US President Joe Biden “changed the paperwork rules”. He explained that US clearance was sought as they “control the airport (internally) so it trumped the British paperwork we had”.
Farthing, in a tweet that went viral on social media, said, “Went through hell to get there and we were turned away into the chaos of those devastating explosions.”
The whole team & dogs/cats were safely 300m inside the airport perimeter. We were turned away as @JoeBiden @POTUS had changed paperwork rules just 2 hours earlier. Went through hell to get there & we were turned away into the chaos of those devastating explosions. #OperationArk
— Pen Farthing (@PenFarthing) August 27, 2021
“All of a sudden we heard gunshots and our vehicle was targeted, had our driver not turned around he would have been shot in the head by a man with an AK-47,” Farthing later told Britain’s Press Association news agency.
The team is safe but still in Afghanistan. We cannot believe what happened yesterday. 💔 https://t.co/eqFx3dJHY0
— NOWZAD (@Nowzad) August 27, 2021Subscriber Only Stories
Farthing had got a privately-funded flight to relocate his pets, but was told by British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace that pets could not take priority over the evacuations of humans. His mission, which came to be known as ‘Operation Ark’, had generated much sympathy.