B.C.-based soldier one of six Canadian troops killed in Afghanistan



Finbarr O'Reilly/REUTERS


Canadian Cpl. Rikk Lewis, right, embraces an unidentified soldier upon his safe arrival at Ma’sum Ghar base, in southeastern Afghanistan, yesterday. Six Canadian soldiers and their Afghan interpreter were killed yesterday when their armoured vehicle hit a roadside bomb.

Photos courtesy of department of National Defense

Cpl. Cole Bartsch, from left, Master. Cpl. Colin Bason, Capt. Matthew Johnathan Dawe and Pte. Lane Watkins were among the six Canadian soldiers killed in a roadside blast near Kandahar city in Afghanistan yesterday. The soldiers were the four whose names were released.

The war in Afghanistan hit close to home yesterday as a soldier based in New Westminster was among six Canadians killed in a roadside bombing.

The soldiers and their Afghan interpreter were killed when the armoured vehicle they were in hit a land mine about 20 kilometres southwest of Kandahar city. Sixty-six soldiers and one Canadian diplomat, Glyn Berry, have died since the mission began in 2002.

Names of four of the six soldiers were released last night. They are: Master Cpl. Colin Bason, based in New Westminster, and Capt. Matthew Dawe, Cpl. Cole Bartsch and Pte. Lane Watkins, all based in Edmonton.

“I know British Columbians’ hearts and prayers go out to the family, friends and colleagues of Master Cpl. Bason as they come to terms with his sudden loss,” Premier Gordon Campbell said in a statement released yesterday. “On behalf of all British Columbians, we offer our condolences to the Bason family and our enduring gratitude for his dedication and bravery in serving his country and the goal of peace.”

The soldiers were returning to their forward operating base in the Panjwaii-Zhari district of Kandahar province, travelling in a convoy along a frequently used gravel road when their RG-31 armoured vehicle — which is designed to withstand up to two simultaneous anti-tank mines — struck a roadside bomb, Canadian Forces Brigadier-General Tim Grant told reporters at Kandahar Airfield. All of the dead were travelling in the same vehicle.

Twenty-two Canadian soldiers have died so far this year, compared to eight during the same period last year. Thirty-six died in 2006.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has committed Canada until February, 2009 and said recently he would need a consensus among MPs and Canadians to extend the mission.

About 2,500 troops are deployed in southern Afghanistan, where Taliban terrorists are most active. The soldiers who died yesterday were set to return at the end of the month to be replaced by troops based in Quebec. Yesterday’s toll is the highest since six soldiers were killed on April 8.

Late last night, about nine hours after Canadians learned of the most recent deaths in Afghanistan, Harper issued a statement:

“It is with deep sorrow that I have learned of today’s tragic event in Afghanistan that took the lives of six Canadian soldiers. On behalf of all Canadians, my most sincere condolences go out,” to the families, he said.

Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion called on Harper to make it clear to Canada’s NATO partners that the Canadian mission will end as scheduled in February 2009 and not a minute longer. “No other country has more burden on its shoulders ... than Canada,” said Dion, adding that Canada “will welcome other countries to do more.”