A friend said a former Royal Marine had successfully evacuated around 170 dogs and cats to the UK from an animal shelter in Afghanistan.
Paul “Ben” Farthing’s privately funded charter flight, which arrived at London’s Heathrow at around 7.30am on Sunday, was not carrying his 24 crew and dependents from the Nawzad shelter in Kabul.
Dominic Dyer, an animal welfare activist and supporter of Farthing, said the former Marine was forced to travel alone after he was told that no people could be found to fill the seats on the plane.
Farthing’s campaign to get workers and animals out of the shelter from Afghanistan has sparked controversy in recent days, after receiving an enormous amount of public support.
On Sunday afternoon, he tweeted: “Arrived at Heathrow with partial success at #OpArk with mixed feelings and a real deep sense of sadness for today’s Afghans.”
Farthing praised the support at the airport, adding: “I have seen with my own eyes that Heathrow appears to Afghan refugees.”
Mr Dyer said the shelter staff were “still at home” and the charity was in contact with them, adding that efforts would be made to try to get them out of Afghanistan.
“They are one of thousands of Afghans… who have the right to leave the country but in fact they do not have a safe passage out at the moment,” he said.
Dyer said employees were denied entry to Kabul airport on Thursday, as the Taliban claimed they did not have the correct papers.
“It is tragic and not the end we wanted, but we fell victim to the chaos and difficulties of crossing through those gates,” he added.
Dyer said nearly 100 dogs and 70 cats on board were “healthy,” with the dogs placed in kennels.
He said that members of the armed forces “voluntarily and voluntarily” helped Farthing to load crates of animals on board the plane in Kabul, but no additional passengers were found.
Mr Dyer claimed that an appeal had been lodged with the British government “to see if we can fill the seats with refugees inside the airport”.
“They told us that no one they could find could actually fill that plane.
“In fact, they had more air capacity than they had people, which probably tells you a lot about the last days of the withdrawal from Afghanistan.”
He added that “every effort was made to do what we could” but “no one could be found”, with Mr Farthing loading the animals and leaving them “alone”.
Farthing’s return to the UK comes after an audio recording of a swear-filled letter he allegedly left to a government aide was leaked.
The recording, obtained by Britain’s The Times, captured Farthing berating Peter Quentin, a special adviser to Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, who he accused of “obstructing” efforts to arrange the evacuation flight.
Farthing’s campaign for astronomy has become a major topic on social media, but Mr. Wallace complained that it was a distraction fromFocus on evacuating the most vulnerable.
Wallace has previously said that Defense Department employees have faced abuse from Farthing supporters.
On Sunday, Dyer dismissed suggestions that “pets are being offered to people” as a “Department of Defense fabrication” in order to “divert attention from a humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan.”
Mr. Dyer previously alleged that Quentin “was instrumental in seeking to undermine support for Operation Ark through Whitehall despite it being a privately funded humanitarian mission with massive public and political support”.
He added: “Pen Farthing, who was risking his life in Kabul to take his people and animals to Britain, was fully justified in holding Mr. Quentin to account for his actions, and I believe it is time to make clear how this rogue consultant attempted to delay the authorization to fly Operation ARK to Kabul. “.
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