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Ben Wallace attacks ‘bullies’ who ‘threatened’ MoD staff over Pen Farthing’s animal rescue flight

The Defence Secretary has hit out at criticism from supporters of a former Royal Marine who is seeking to evacuate animals from Afghanistan.

Paul Farthing, known as Pen, who founded the Nowzad shelter in Kabul, is aiming to get 200 dogs and cats alongside his animal shelter staff out of the country.

His animals are currently in a container outside the airport as they wait with their carer to board an evacuation flight. 

Ben Wallace rejected claims he had blocked a flight to take the animals, saying it was a ‘total myth’.

It came as Boris Johnson denied he had had any influence on the rescue attempts.

In a series of tweets, Mr Wallace lashed out at ‘bullying, falsehoods and threatening behaviour’ towards Ministry of Defence staff.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has hit out at criticism from supporters of a former Royal Marine who is seeking to evacuate animals from Afghanistan

Paul Farthing, known as Pen, who founded the Nowzad shelter in Kabul, is aiming to get 200 dogs and cats alongside his animal shelter staff out of the country

Paul Farthing, known as Pen, who founded the Nowzad shelter in Kabul, is aiming to get 200 dogs and cats alongside his animal shelter staff out of the country 

He said: ‘Let’s get some facts out there: One. No one, at any stage has blocked a flight.

‘This is a total myth and is being peddled around as if that is why the pet evacuation hasn’t taken place.

‘Two. I never said I would not facilitate. I said no one would get to queue jump.

‘Three. The issue, as those desperate people waiting outside the gates know too well, has always been getting processed through the entrances. It can take over 24 hours. There is no point turning up with a plane until the passengers / pets are airside.

‘Four. As people were processed ARAP (Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy), LOTR (Leave outside the Immigration Rules) etc they were called forward. Once processed and on the airfield they are marshalled on to a plane. As I have said we will facilitate at all stages but the priority will be people not pets.’

In a series of tweets, Mr Wallace lashed out at 'bullying, falsehoods and threatening behaviour' towards Ministry of Defence staff

In a series of tweets, Mr Wallace lashed out at ‘bullying, falsehoods and threatening behaviour’ towards Ministry of Defence staff 

Mr Wallace went on to say there had been no ‘U-turn’ over the issue, calling for critics to allow civil servants and the military to deal ‘with one of the most dangerous and challenging evacuations for a generation’.

He added: ‘The bullying, falsehoods and threatening behaviour by some towards our MOD personnel and advisors is unacceptable and a shameful way to treat people trying to help the evacuation.

‘They do their cause no good.’

Since the collapse of the Afghan government, Mr Farthing and his supporters have campaigned to have his staff and their families as well as 140 dogs and 60 cats evacuated from the country in a plan he has dubbed Operation Ark.

Reports have suggested the Prime Minister’s wife Carrie stepped in to push for his rescue.

Asked about the reports on Thursday, Mr Johnson said: ‘I’ve had absolutely no influence on any particular case, nor would that be right.

‘That’s not, that’s not how we do things in this country.’

On Thursday morning, Mr Farthing issued a plea on Twitter to ensure his ‘safe passage’ into Kabul airport.

Today shocking footage emerged of the animals gasping for breath inside the packed container

Today shocking footage emerged of the animals gasping for breath inside the packed container

Mr Farthing’s animals are currently in a container outside the airport as they wait with their carer to board an evacuation flight. Above: Today shocking footage emerged of the animals gasping for breath inside the packed container

Addressing the Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen, Mr Farthing said: ‘Dear Sir; my team & my animals are stuck at airport circle. 

‘We have a flight waiting. Can you please facilitate safe passage into the airport for our convoy?

‘We are an NGO who will come back to Afghanistan but right now I want to get everyone out safely.’

He added: ‘We have been here for 10 hours after being assured that we would have safe passage. Truly would like to go home now. Let’s prove the IEA are taking a different path.’

His friend and supporter Dominic Dyer, from Milton Keynes, said a privately funded plane had been due to land on Friday from Luton airport, but plans had to be scrapped due to security fears.

It came as Boris Johnson denied he had had any influence on the rescue attempts. Reports have suggested the Prime Minister's wife Carrie (right) stepped in to push for his rescue

It came as Boris Johnson denied he had had any influence on the rescue attempts. Reports have suggested the Prime Minister’s wife Carrie (right) stepped in to push for his rescue

The Defence Secretary's furious response came after Mr Farthing told how he witnessed today's suspected suicide bombing on Kabul airport. Above: An Afghan man is seen covered in blood after the blast

The Defence Secretary’s furious response came after Mr Farthing told how he witnessed today’s suspected suicide bombing on Kabul airport. Above: An Afghan man is seen covered in blood after the blast 

Mr Dyer said another plane is now waiting in a ‘neighbouring country’ but cannot land in Kabul until Mr Farthing is granted entry into the airport.

He told the PA news agency: ‘We have a plan in place and we can act swiftly, but not until he’s granted entry into the airport.

‘It’s a complicated situation and the door is closing, the next 24 to 48 hours are crucial – we need it to happen before then to avoid him, his staff and the animals becoming stuck in the country.

‘There are options for him to go back to his centre and hunker down or he could try and leave the country on the road – but there are fears over the Taliban closing the borders, so it’s unclear what’s going to happen.’

The Defence Secretary’s furious response came after Mr Farthing told how he witnessed today’s suspected suicide bombing on Kabul airport.

‘Suicide bomb’ kills 13 at Kabul airport: TWO explosions and gunfire rip through crowds, causing multiple casualties including children

By Jack Newman and Nick Craven for MailOnline

At least 13 people including children and US soldiers have been killed in two separate explosions near Kabul airport just hours after warnings of an ‘imminent’ and ‘lethal’ ISIS terror attack.

One of the blasts ripped through a crowd of Afghans gathered at the Abbey gate of the Hamid Karzai airport, and another hit Barons Hotel, followed by gunfire and mass panic.

Images from the scene show scores of bloodied people being carried away in wheelbarrows after one of the bombers detonated in a sewage canal-way packed with people overlooked by US troops.

The devastation could spell the end of the airlifts before the August 31 deadline, with Germany already pulling out all its military planes, potentially leaving thousands stranded under Taliban rule.

Meanwhile an Afghan man queueing to enter the airport said the explosion hit the middle of a crowd of thousands, and he saw many injured and maimed people and was told of multiple fatalities.

Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby said: ‘We can confirm an explosion outside Kabul airport. Casualties are unclear at this time. We will provide additional details when we can.’

A Number 10 spokesman said Boris Johnson has been updated on the situation and will chair a COBR meeting later this afternoon, while Joe Biden has also been briefed. 

Mr Farthing said his vehicle was targeted by AK-47-wielding gunman and his driver was almost ‘shot in the head’. 

The former Royal Marine, who was in a car when the incident occurred, said: ‘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.’

Two separate explosions have rocked Kabul with at least 13 casualties including children and three US soldiers among the wounded just hours after warnings of an ‘imminent’ and ‘lethal’ ISIS terror attack. 

Earlier today, Armed Forces minister James Heappey said British forces could not move ‘desperate Afghans’ to make way for Mr Farthing’s pet rescue mission – as harrowing footage emerged of dogs suffering from the heat while stuck in a container outside Kabul airport. 

Mr Heappey said that while the former Royal Marine deserved praise for staying behind with his staff and animals until they are evacuated, giving them priority over other desperate people waiting to leave ‘doesn’t feel like the right thing to do’. 

Taliban militants have blocked Mr Farthing’s convoy carrying 173 cats and dogs from entering Kabul airport to flee Afghanistan – as he warned the animals could soon die from heat exhaustion after being left for more than ten hours in a sweltering travel crate.

Today shocking footage emerged of the animals gasping for breath inside the packed container. 

Summing up the situation this morning, Armed Forces minister James Heappey suggested it would be wrong to prioritise Mr Farthing and his animals for processing over other applicants. 

He told Sky News: ‘For him, it is a grim reality of these situations that as a British national we would seek to expedite his passage into the airport but he, commendably, has said that is not what he wants to do.

‘He is asking us, the Americans and the Taliban for safe passage but I am afraid safe passage is also other words for being brought to the front of the queue.

‘And I just wonder how you feel about having to make a decision whereby we move lots of desperate Afghans out of the way to bring him through because of the profile and the support he has. 

‘That doesn’t feel like the right thing to do. It gives me no pleasure to say that though.’ 

Mr Wallace has repeatedly expressed his frustration about the row, and complained yesterday about the limited resources available to the British military evacuation effort being ‘diverted’ by attempts to rescue the animals.  

According to Sky News, Mr Wallace addressed the issue during a call with MPs on Wednesday afternoon, complaining that soldiers in Kabul had been diverted by having to deal with the Nowzad evacuation. 

Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby said: 'We can confirm an explosion outside Kabul airport. Casualties are unclear at this time. We will provide additional details when we can'

Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby said: ‘We can confirm an explosion outside Kabul airport. Casualties are unclear at this time. We will provide additional details when we can’

‘What I can tell you, and it is a bit upsetting, is that I have soldiers on the ground who have been diverted from saving those people because of inaccurate stories, inaccurate lobbying that have diverted that resource,’ he is reported to have said.

‘And that is not something I would be proud of, and I’ve been very straight and consistent throughout.’ 

Mr Farthing, who has previously fought in Afghanistan, tried to flee the country with 25 staff and their families along with 94 dogs and 79 cats and two trucks loaded with food and supplies in case they got stuck.  

But during their race across the city last night, they were stopped at a Taliban checkpoint by a group of militants.  

‘About 15 guys jumped out and levelled their guns at us,’ Mr Farthing told The Sun:

‘Then one of them had an ND [a negligent discharge]. Luckily he was a s*** shot and it went over our heads.

The blast took place near the Baron Hotel at the Abbey Gate of the airport where huge crowds had gathered in an attempt to enter the airport

The blast took place near the Baron Hotel at the Abbey Gate of the airport where huge crowds had gathered in an attempt to enter the airport

The Government is still scrambling to evacuate thousands of British nationals trapped at Hamid Karzai International Airport

The Government is still scrambling to evacuate thousands of British nationals trapped at Hamid Karzai International Airport

‘I very rarely hear Afghans swear in English but I heard a few words then.

Mr Farthing said he has been in touch with British forces but they said they are powerless to intervene.

Mr Farthing was held at the checkpoint for an hour before they were finally allowed to drive across the city to the airport.

They arrived there at 2am but they still remain behind the blockade unable to enter the transport hub.

Staff have parked their trucks in the shade in an effort to keep the animals cool and have been spraying the crates with water.

The Government is still scrambling to evacuate thousands of British nationals trapped at Hamid Karzai International Airport – which fell under Taliban control last week.   


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