Afghanistan: Pen Farthing has 'mixed emotions' after landing in UK with animals - but without his staff

·2-min read

A former Royal Marine who founded an animal shelter in Afghanistan has expressed "mixed emotions" after landing in the UK with nearly 170 dogs and cats.

Paul "Pen" Farthing was trying to get his staff and rescue animals out of Kabul when they became caught up in Thursday's airport bomb blasts.

His privately-funded charter flight landed at London's Heathrow Airport on Sunday morning - but his 24 staff and dependents from the Nowzad shelter were not on board.

Dominic Dyer, a friend and animal welfare campaigner, said the former British soldier was forced to travel back alone after being told it was not possible to find people to fill the plane's seats.

He said the shelter staff were "still in their homes", adding that efforts would be made to try to get them out of Afghanistan.

He added that they are among thousands of Afghans "that have a right to leave the country but actually have no safe passage out at the moment".

Mr Farthing tweeted: "Arrived Heathrow with partial success of #OpArk.

"Mixed emotions and true deep feeling of sadness for Afghan today.

"Witnessed 1st hand the compassion Heathrow is showing Afghan refugees."

Mr Farthing said his team made it inside the airport perimeter on Friday, but was turned away after US President Joe Biden changed paperwork rules two hours earlier.

The nearly 100 dogs and 70 cats on the flight were almost all "healthy", with the dogs placed in kennels, according to Mr Dyer.

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Mr Dyer claimed an appeal was made to the UK government "to see if we could fill seats with refugees within the airport", but the response was that "there was no one they could find".

Mr Farthing's "Operation Ark" campaign attracted a lot of support on social media, but the defence secretary said it distracted from efforts to evacuate vulnerable people.

The former Royal Marine, originally from Dovercourt in Essex, set up the Nowzad animal shelter in Kabul after serving in Afghanistan in the mid-2000s.

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