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A former Royal Marine who was near to the explosion close to Kabul airport has said his vehicle was targeted by a gunman amid the chaos.
A number of people are feared to have been killed in at least two explosions outside the airport following warnings that a terror attack could be launched in the final phase of the evacuation effort.
Paul Farthing, known as Pen – who founded the Nowzad shelter in Kabul – is aiming to get 200 dogs and cats out of the country alongside his animal shelter staff and a number of children.
Mr Farthing, who was outside the airport in a car when the incident occurred, told the PA news agency: “We’re fine but everything is chaos here at the moment.
“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.
“We’ve been in the airport, and back out of the airport; the whole thing’s a mess.
“There’s not much more I can say at the moment, I need to make sure the animals and everyone is safe.”
Since the collapse of the Afghan government, Mr Farthing and his supporters have campaigned to have his staff and their families, around 68 people, as well as 140 dogs and 60 cats evacuated from the country in a plan he has dubbed Operation Ark.
Mr Farthing said he was told by the UK Government that if he could get into Kabul airport he and his team would be guaranteed passage out of Afghanistan.
However, after arriving they were denied access and were forced to turn back after the attacks took place.
Dr Iain McGill, a veterinary surgeon who is part of a team in the UK supporting Mr Farthing’s efforts to rescue animals and families, told PA: “Pen managed to get himself and everyone else, including the animals to a safe place but it’s gut-wrenching after all they went through to get to the airport then just to be turned away.
speaks for itself. Animal welfare and humanitarian disaster brewing due to MoD not getting those gates open @benwallacemp @domdyer70 @PeterEgan6 @marcthevet @Nowzad @alpacapower @daily_politics @TheSun @thedailymail @washingtonpost @NewYorktimes_ON @ReutersWorld pic.twitter.com/Bh9L4ptrf4
— Dr Iain McGill BSc(Hons) BVetMed MRCVS (@IainTime) August 26, 2021
“The gate is controlled by the Taliban and the Americans and both were willing to let Pen and the dogs go, but not his staff who are mainly women he trained up to be vets and veterinary nurses and their children.
“Even though he’s going through hell right now he’s not going to leave without them though. They come as a package. This a humanitarian mission about saving people and animals.
“What we need now is approval from someone senior in the US Government. We’re hoping Dominic Raab or Boris Johnson can reach out to the defence secretary there and explain the situation. Because the way things are going, this might be the only good news story to come out of this whole crisis if they’re allowed to leave.”
A team of vets is on stand-by to meet Mr Farthing and the animals if they ever land at Heathrow Airports.