Taliban militants surround TV host during live news show
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Ben Slater, chairman of the Nomad Concepts Group, was forced to take matters into his own hands after the UK Government failed to process their visas ahead of the foreign troop withdrawal deadline today. Mr Slater, who served in the Royal Military Police, had already helped to evacuate dozens of vulnerable people from Afghanistan as part of the UK’s airlift mission, Operation Pitting. But when he asked officials to organise the evacuation of himself and his 50 staff – who are mostly women and at serious risk from the Taliban – no visas were provided.
Women are feared to be the group most at risk from the Taliban.
During the 1996 to 2001 Taliban reign in Afghanistan, women experienced serious human rights violations and curtailed freedoms.
Girls and women were forbidden from seeking education or joining the workforce and were not allowed to leave the home without being escorted by a man.
Since sweeping to power on August 15, there have also been reports of Taliban fighters hunting down Afghans who supported the West over the last 20-year war and executing them.
Mr Slater said he was “massively let down” by the UK Government and has launched his own operation to save 400 vulnerable Afghan nationals including himself and his 50 staff.
The location of their convoy, and final destination, cannot be revealed for security reasons.
Mr Slater said: “It’s going to be a long trip, and I am hoping on the other end that the FCDO [Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office] have got our visas sorted, or at least have spoken to the foreign affairs ministry in our destination country to allow access for our vulnerable staff.”
Following the withdrawal of UK troops, the Government has told any British nationals or Afghans eligible for resettlement in the UK to attempt to make passage to countries that neighbour Afghanistan so they can be repatriated.
However, many are concerned that Foreign Office officials failed to properly prepare with Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to allow people to travel to the UK.
There are also reports that Russia has warned the neighbouring countries not to accept Western citizens or people who say they would like to settle in the UK or US.
The Taliban has already promised world leaders they will allow people to leave the country across land borders to other states, but Mr Slater and other escapees are afraid local fighters will not keep that promise.
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08:05 British nationals still in country will face ‘challenge’, says Dominic Raab
It will be a “challenge” for British nationals left in Afghanistan to leave and return safely to the UK, according to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.
Speaking to Sky News, Mr Raab said it was “unclear” when the airport in Kabul would again be operating to facilitate an escape.
He advised those who wanted to leave Afghanistan to first find their way to a neighbouring country and then arrange safe passage to the UK from there.
The foreign secretary estimated the number of British nationals left behind now that troops have withdrawn to be in the low hundreds.
More than 17,000 British nationals, Afghans and other vulnerable people had been evacuated from the country.
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