Ex-marine Paul ‘Pen’ Farthing has issued a desperate plea for help from outside Kabul airport – where he and his team are stuck with 173 animals seeking an evacuation flight.
Farthing – the founder of animal rescue charity Nowzad – has made headlines this week as he seeks to escape Afghanistan with his staff and the charity’s rescued cats and dogs.
Writing on Twitter, he sought to appeal directly to the Taliban, saying: “Dear Sir; my team & my animals are stuck at airport circle. We have a flight waiting. Can you please facilitate safe passage into the airport for our convoy?
“Suhail Shaheen, We are an NGO who will come back to Afghanistan but right now I want to get everyone out safely.”
He added: “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.”
‘It is getting really desperate’
Farthing, 57, told The Sun that his pets risk being baked to death in their travel crates if they don’t get help soon.
He made a midnight trip to the airport in convoy with his team, after receiving notice from Ben Wallace – the defence secretary – that they could board a private charter plan back to Britain.
But he was stopped en route by a Taliban checkpoint. Farthing said: “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,” he said.
“We have permission to leave. We are in touch with the British forces but they say they are powerless to help.”
Wallace has complained to MPs that British military efforts to evacuate people from Kabul had been “diverted” because of Farthing’s efforts to save his animals.
According to Sky News, the defence secretary told a meeting of lawmakers: “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.”
A friend of Farthing revealed that Carrie Johnson – the prime minister’s wife and an avid animal rights campaigner – had helped change Wallace’s mind, although government sources disputed his claims.
Dominic Dyer, an animal rights campaigner, had said that Johnson “most certainly had something to do with the change”.
Related: UK care home provider to train and employ 500 Afghan refugees