An animal rescuer has managed to escape Kabul with almost 200 dogs and cats after going “through hell” amid the chaos at the airport.
Former commando turned animal rescuer Pen Farthing and his animals have been rescued from Kabul after the British Army helped him board a private plane.
The 57-year-old, who founded a shelter in 2007 to rescue animals in Afghanistan, has been battling to evacuate his staff and almost 200 animals.
He was forced to turn away from an evacuation flight yesterday after what he claimed was a paperwork bungle by US President Joe Biden.
It happened as a suicide bomber detonated his device at Kabul airport — killing at least 170 and leaving scores injured.
“The whole team and dogs/cats were safely 300m inside the airport perimeter,” Farthing tweeted. “We were turned away as Biden had changed paperwork rules just two hours earlier. Went through hell to get there and we were turned away into the chaos of those devastating explosions.”
But now the 57-year-old is due to fly to Tashkent in Uzbekistan before returning to the UK.
He spoke to The Sun of his sadness at not being able to fulfil his promise to get his predominantly Afghan staff to safety as well.
“It is just so depressing I had to leave them behind,” he said.
“Some of them came with me to the airport but they weren’t allowed to cross the line from Taliban to British control.”
Since the collapse of the Afghan government, Pen and his supporters have campaigned to have his staff and their families as well as 140 dogs and 60 cats evacuated from the country in a plan he dubbed Operation Ark.
His wife, Kaisa Markhus, 30, who is from Norway, was evacuated out of Afghanistan on an almost empty plane and finally arrived home on August 19.
She and a pregnant American friend, who manages the Nowzad animal sanctuary set up by her husband, had to push their way through a sea of men, women and children to get to an access gate.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said officials would seek a runway slot for the plane chartered by Pen, 57, to evacuate him, his staff and their animals if they went to Kabul Airport.
But, Pen, 69 Afghan adults and kids, and the animals were 300m inside the airport perimeter when the Taliban told the group it couldn’t board a jet.
He vowed to try again and was successful when British defence bosses confirmed he would be plucked to safety.
The Ministry of Defence tweeted: “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.”
The announcement has been hailed by concerned Brits who have been following the former Royal Marine’s escape efforts on social media.
One social media user tweeted that his return home was “the news we have all been waiting for”.
— The Sun