Animal rescuer and ex-Royal Marine Pen Farthing had a close call in Afghanistan Thursday when a deadly explosion near Kabul airport occurred — killing at least 60 people, including 13 American service members. During the attack, a gunman targeted the car that Farthing was inside of, but he and others managed to escape unharmed.
Farthing is the founder of Nowzad, a rescue group for dogs, cats, donkeys, and other animals, with its headquarters in Kabul. Since the Taliban took control of the country, he has been racing to bring the rescue staff and nearly 200 animals to safety in the UK via a cargo plane.
“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,” Farthing told Metro, putting into perspective just how dangerous it is there currently. “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.”
At least two explosions occurred as thousands waited outside Kabul airport to be evacuated. The first is believed to have been a suicide bomber, while the second blast was likely a car bomb, defense sources told Metro.
Since the Taliban takeover of the capital, Farthing has been joined by hundreds of animal advocates across the globe campaigning for his staff, their families and the animals to be flown out of the country on a charter plane, in a plan dubbed “Operation Ark.”
Earlier this week, defense staff said they were not prepared to prioritize animals ahead of people in danger. But if Farthing could get to the airport with his staff and animals, they then said that they would seek a slot for the chartered flight.
The animals would fly in cargo, freeing up space within the plane’s cabin for as many Afghan refugees as possible. The 250-seater plane will host Farthing’s 68 employees, who have completed all the necessary paperwork for the trip.
Farthing is not alone in his fight to bring rescued animals to safety from the Taliban. American rescuer Charlotte Maxwell-Jones, the founder of Kabul Small Animal Rescue, is currently working to fundraise and gather permits to fly her staff and animals out of the country as well.
After the close call in Kabul, both rescues are hoping to get out of the country as soon as possible.
“We’re fine, but everything is chaos here at the moment,” Farthing said.