A former Royal Marine from Tiverton and Afghanistan dog rescue charity founder has spoken about the aftermath of a Taliban bomb blast that ripped into his Kabul rescue shelter.
Over the last six years, since Pen Farthing, a 43-year-old former Troop Sergeant returned from Afghanistan, Nowzad Dogs has re-homed around 560 stray dogs with the soldiers they gave vital solace and escapism to, enabling them to cope with the harsh reality of war.
At 3.30pm on Wednesday, May 21, a Taliban improvised explosion device detonated at the gates of the shelter and kennels in the Afghan capital, blowing up a bus transporting Afghan National Army soldiers and seriously wounding five men on board.
The heavy duty gates of the shelter were blown apart and windows of the staff rest room blown in, with large pieces of shrapnel dispersing everywhere.
Mercifully, at the moment of the blast, all shelter staff were tending to the dogs in the kennels, and Pen and shelter manager Louise Hastie, had been delayed and arrived 30 minutes later to find their staff in a daze, ears still ringing.
It appears insurgents had planted the bomb at the gates of the shelter the night before and detonated it the moment the bus passed hours later.
“Because of its size, the door acted as a prominent marker for whoever was sat there waiting to explode the device,” explained Pen. “We got off lightly,” he added. “Had myself, Louise, or any of the other staff been near the door, or coming in or out at the moment, the outcome would have been very different.
“Large pieces of metal were all over the shelter – we’re relieved none of our staff were hurt.
“The compound walls are about half-a-meter thick of a mud-straw mix, so took all the initial force – we were lucky the blast went upwards.”
The incident has come as a blow to the charity which relies on donations to sustain the initiative which includes a crucial rabies vaccination and neutering programme which is having a profound impact on the citizens of Kabul.
Pen estimates around $2,000USD of damage has been caused, setting their mission back and an appeal has been launched to get the charity back on track.
Salvaged pieces of the doors were used to barricade the entrance and replacement gates are urgently needed in addition to the internal repair works.
“It is a risk of being here,” Pen explained. “We’re never complacent, you always know something like this can happen. And when it does, it hits home, especially when you think someone from the Taliban was at our gates planting a bomb.
“Incidents like this are not going to stop the work we’re doing, but we always need to re-evaluate and improve the safety of our staff.
“Any setback like this financially is frustrating, but it could have been a hell of a lot worse – you can’t put a price on life.”
To donate visit www.nowzad.com