Royal Marine Pen Farthing speaking to ITV on August 24
Former West Country-based Royal Marine Pen Farthing has been told he can fly his staff and rescue animals out of Afghanistan after days of campaigning.
The 52-year-old, who is from Devon, was given the go ahead overnight by UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace.
It follows a campaign by Farthing, who has accused the Ministry of Defence of delaying his evacuation plans.
He had chartered a $500,000 plane to land at Kabul Airport and take his Nowzad charity workers and rescue animals out of the country.
But Farthing suggested his privately-funded flight was delayed by paperwork, while Mr Wallace told Good Morning Britain on August 24 he could not put "animals before people".
'No one has the right to jump the queue'
Posting on Twitter today (August 25), Mr Wallace confirmed Farthing will now be able to land his aircraft at the airport and evacuate his animals.
“Now that Pen Farthing’s staff have been cleared to come forward under LOTR, I have authorised MOD to facilitate their processing alongside all other eligible personnel at HKIA," the defence minister tweeted.
"At that stage, if he arrives with his animals we will seek a slot for his plane.
"If he does not have his animals with him, he and his staff can board an RAF flight.
"I have been consistent all along, ensuring those most at risk are processed first and that the limiting factor has been flow THROUGH to airside NOT airplane capacity.
"No one has the right in this humanitarian crisis to jump the queue."
Farthing has campaigned to get both his staff and animals out of Afghanistan in a plan he has dubbed Operation Ark.
On Monday, he said the UK Government had granted visas for his workers and their dependants - totalling 68 people - but the evacuation of the shelter's animals proved problematic.
In an update on Wednesday, Mr Raab told LBC: “We’re trying to do all we can for the staff, but in terms of the animals, and the question of whether they can be prioritised ahead of the other people that are trying to get out, I don’t have anything more to add to what the Defence Secretary, I think, rightly said in the last 24 hours.”
More to follow.