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York soldier Andrew Lewis relives confrontation in Afghanistan
A SOLDIER from York has relived the moment he confronted a Taliban fighter while serving with the Territorial Army in Afghanistan.
Private Andrew Lewis, of the 4th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment, was with colleagues providing security checks at a compound in the Nadi Ali district of Helmand Province, a few kilometres from the army base, when he heard a noise on the steps leading to the compound.
A Taliban fighter was on the other side of the door and the incident sparked a gun battle in which the British troops forced the Taliban to retreat.
Private Lewis, who was in Afghanistan as part of a six-month operational tour of duty on Operation Herrick 15, providing support to 20 Armoured Brigade, said he then heard a knock on the door to the compound.
The 29-year-old soldier said the Afghan had thought the compound had recently been vacated by British soldiers and was trying to find out where the troops had gone – and did not expect to come face to face with the enemy.
Private Lewis, of Rawcliffe, York, had been making final security checks at the compound and went to unbolt the heavy steel door when the Afghan noted a British Army spotter armed on the compound roof and fled on a motorbike.
“I heard a noise on the steps, then shouting and then a knock on the door,” Private Lewis said.
“I was on the other side so I went to the door. Luckily my friend was on the roof providing security and he immediately contacted me by radio.
“The Taliban community obviously did not know we were there. He ran off before I had opened the door.
“If I had had a few more seconds, I could have arrested a member of the Taliban.”
Under rules of engagement, neither Private Lewis nor his colleagues were able to shoot the enemy first.
But Private Lewis told how the Taliban fighter returned minutes later with heavily armed comrades and opened fire on the compound with a machine gun.
As the British troops fired back, the Taliban retreated.
“It was probably only about five minutes in total – but it felt like so much longer,” Private Lewis said of the incident, which happened in January this year.
“I still cannot believe I nearly opened the door on the Taliban.”
He said most shooting was done at long-range and was unusual to have come so close to the enemy.
He said it was “very difficult to explain” what it was like to serve in Afghanistan - adding it was “good to be home”.
Private Lewis, who has served with the TA for ten years, was part of 31 men and women of 4th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment who marched on to the Knavesmire on Thursday to receive operational medals from the Duke of York.
Private Lewis, who was accompanied by his aunt Patricia Lewis at the ceremony, said he was “very proud” at the honour.