Paul "Pen" Farthing won CNN's Hero of the Year Award in 2014 for his efforts to reunite soldiers with animals they cared for in Afghanistan.
Kevin Mazur/WireImage for CNN, Ben Birchall/PA Images via Getty Images
  • Former British Royal Marine Paul "Pen" Farthing is stuck at Kabul Airport with 200 rescue animals.
  • There was a plan to evacuate him, his staff, and animals on Friday using a charter plane.
  • It is unclear when exactly their flight will go ahead following explosions at Kabul Airport.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

A friend of the ex-Royal Marine who vowed to not leave Afghanistan without his 200 rescue animals and the staff members of his shelter said on Thursday that a rescue mission is still in place to bring them to the UK.

As the Pentagon confirmed multiple US service members were killed in explosions at Kabul Airport on Thursday afternoon, it was unclear whether the rescue would go ahead on Friday as planned. According to Metro, Paul "Pen" Farthing said he and his convoy of animals and staff are "fine" following the explosions, but that "everything is chaos" at the airport.

Dominic Dyer, an animal welfare campaigner, appeared on "Good Morning Britain" on Thursday to discuss his friend Farthing, 52, who founded the Nowzad Animal Shelter in Kabul in 2007.

Dyer said a private cargo plane, chartered through donations, was originally approved by the British Foreign Office to fly from Luton Airport in the UK to Afghanistan to bring them home.

He later told the BBC that a plane from a country neighbouring country would instead be used, as the charter plane "could not enter Kabul airspace safely." Dyer added that the plane could not land in Kabul until Farthing was granted entry to the airport.

In the early hours of Thursday, Farthing tweeted at Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen to ask for safe passage, saying that he and his convoy had been held up outside Kabul Airport for 10 hours.

The update about the rescue, which Sky News reports Farthing has dubbed "Operation Ark," comes after the publication said British Secretary of Defence Ben Wallace told members of UK parliament on Wednesday they may not be able to board RAF planes as they did not have the same level of priority as people.

"What I was not prepared to do is prioritise pets over people," Wallace told MPs, according to Sky News. "I'm afraid you might dislike me for that but that's my view, there are also some very, very desperate people under real threat."

Referencing Wallace's comments, Dyer told "Good Morning Britain" he had confirmation from the Secretary of Defence's office on Wednesday that the rescue plan could go ahead.

Later on "Good Morning Britain," Wallace said British forces can "facilitate" getting Farthing into the airfield as he is as a British passport holder, but said there are "hard realities" when it comes to his Afghan staff.

"To effectively bring them through ahead of everyone else in the queue means we are moving other equally desperate Afghans out of the way," Wallace said.

Following his interview on "Good Morning Britain," Wallace tweeted to defend his position on prioritising people over pets and to refute claims that the charter plane to rescue Farthing, his staff, and animals was once blocked.

He added that "there is no point turning up with a plane until the passengers/pets are airside," which he said can take over 24 hours.

Dominic Dyer, representatives for Nowzad, and the Ministry of Defence did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

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