I broke out of Afghanistan jail and fled Taliban in my flip-flops, says Brit former soldier

A BRIT ex-soldier has told of his miraculous escape from a hell-hole Kabul jail as the Taliban surged into the Afghan capital.

Former Red Cap Ian Cameron, 56, made a desperate dash in his flip-flops across blood-soaked streets before somehow finding his way to a plane out.

The who served 24 years in the Royal Military Police said he feared for the first time he was “a goner” when a Taliban firefight raged outside his Kabul prison cell.

Ian, 56 — in a hell-hole jail for selling booze — called his wife Sally for a heart-wrenching goodbye as militants surged into the Afghan capital on Sunday.

He told The Sun: “I’ve been in a few tight spots but I can honestly say, with my hand on my heart, this was the first time I thought, ‘I might be a goner’.

“I told her I loved her. I said I thought this might be it and, yeah, you know, we said our goodbyes.”

Busted out of jail in his flip-flops

But the dad-of-one busted out of jail in his flip-flops and dashed across the blood-soaked city to safety, aided by his fellow inmates.

He is now in quarantine in ­Birmingham and waiting for an emotional reunion with his wife.

 Ian told how all hell broke loose last weekend outside the high-security Counter Narcotics Detention Centre in Qasaba, on the northern outskirts of Kabul.

 He said: “Everyone started shouting, ‘Allahu Akbar!’ We tried to run outside, but as we got to the front gate bullets were hitting the walls all around us.

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“We ran back inside and the guards put us in this safe room with a heavy metal door next to the commander’s office.”

The shooting lasted an hour as they hid inside. Ian went on: “It started to quieten down, then all of a sudden it was just a free-for-all.”

A guard unbolted the door and Ian made his way outside where almost 1,000 inmates were making a dash for freedom.

Ian said: “There were pools of blood everywhere, all the way up the road. I have never seen so much blood.

“I could tell that people had died, but the bodies were already gone. I don’t know what had happened.”

He was in his prison garb — a green salwar kameez and open-toe plastic flip-flops.

The other prisoners gave him a cotton scarf and a Covid mask to cover his face, so he did not stand out as a Westerner.

He recalled: “I kept asking them, ‘What’s going on?’ 

“But they said, ‘Shhh. Don’t speak, don’t say a word. Just keep your head down’. And they all stood around me, to protect me, to try and hide who I was.” The former close protection officer was arrested in Kabul in March with more than £30,000 of illegal booze.

Ducking to avoid the Taliban

He had set up a business selling alcohol and was known as The Milkman because he delivered to customers – including Afghan ministers, provincial governors and members of the president and vice-presidents’ offices. Ian and the majority of the inmates last Sunday were being funnelled through a narrow pedestrian exit. But he and his pals feared the Taliban could be there checking people’s identities. He said: “We dived under a barrier and dashed round the back of a building and then out the main vehicle gate.”

All he had was about £40 in local currency and a white plastic shopping bag with his prison diaries, a T-shirt and toothbrush. 

A local friend, Mohammed, was waiting to help guide him to friendly forces. The roads were jammed with traffic as tens of thousands of people tried to reach the airport or flee the city.

Ian said: “We just ran. We were ducking and diving through the traffic trying to avoid the Taliban.

“It was like doing a ten-mile stretcher race without training. It was the first bit of exercise I had done in six months.”

It took them two hours before they reached the airport, by which time his feet were black with dirt, bleeding and blistered. 

However, the Afghan guards at the North Gate refused to let him in. 

 Ian said: “I didn’t have any ID. Mohammed explained who I was but they said I had to find the British soldiers on the other side of the runway.”

They ran around the airport perimeter and found a road, where they flagged down a minibus.

When they hit more traffic they got out and ran again. They eventually reached a clear stretch, where a taxi drove them to the security barrier of the Baron Hotel, at the south-eastern edge of the airport. 

There, amid chaos, British troops were processing evacuees. 

Ian said: “It was packed with people trying to get in. There were hundreds, maybe thousands, of Afghans camped in the road trying to get out. I said to Mohammed, ‘Come with me. I will try and get you out.’ But he said no. He said, ‘I can’t leave my family’.”

The two hugged and had an emotional farewell. Ian said: “I told Mohammed I would do everything I could to get him and his family out as soon as I got home.”

He hobbled down the last stretch of path to reach the hotel, where three of his old Red Cap comrades were waiting for him. 

They gave him a change of clothes. Ian went on: “Then I met a major from 1 Para, commanding the lads at the hotel. He said, ‘Ah, you’re The Milkman. We’ve been expecting you.’ And he asked if he could have a selfie with me. It was all a bit surreal.”

For Ian, the hardest part of leaving was driving through crowds of desperate men, women and children camped outside the airport.

He said: “You see the faces of these people looking at you, trying to get into the cars. It is heartbreaking. I felt guilty leaving these people behind. Who knows if they will ever get out?”

He jetted out on an RAF C-17 to Dubai, where he transferred to a Titan Airways charter flight to Birmingham. Ian said: “I was still wearing my flip-flops because I’ve got size 11 feet and none of my mates had any shoes big enough.”

He was initially held up at Passport Control in Birmingham as he had no ID, but was eventually driven to a hotel where he was forced to quarantine for ten days.

He said: “When I got to the hotel I sat down and went, ‘Aaaah’. Then I ran a bath. It was the first bath I had had in six months.”

Quarantine means he has yet to be reunited in person with Sally though he has received some instructions. He said: “She has told me, ‘No more adventures. From now on it’s dull and boring’ and I am OK with that.” Back in March, his booze-selling business collapsed when police stormed his house after a rival raised the alarm.

They paraded him like a drugs kingpin in front of 730 bottles of spirits, 1,160 bottles of beer and dozens of cartons of boxed wine and champagne which he had shipped in as diplomatic cargo.

He said: “I had just had a delivery that morning because I had an order for the Russian Embassy and the Saudi Arabian embassy.” 

He was initially sentenced to 18 years but it was cut to five on appeal and he has been promised a presidential pardon. Ian said: “One of the judges who sentenced me was one of my customers. You couldn’t make it up.” 

Describing his prison he said: “Conditions inside were atrocious.

“I wouldn’t have put my worst enemy in there. There was one toilet that was disgusting, always blocked. No shower, just a dirty sink. You were given a loaf of bread that looked like a brick. 

“I used to try and feed the bread to the birds, but even they wouldn’t eat it, it was that stale.”

 ALL proceeds from this interview will support Ian’s Afghan colleagues trying to flee the Taliban. 

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