Three Alberta-based troopers among dead in blast near Kandahar
photo courtesy department of national defence
Alberta soldiers and their families are devastated yet again, after three Edmonton-based soldiers were killed yesterday by a powerful roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan.
They were killed with three other Canadian soldiers and an Afghan interpreter on a gravel road about 20 kilometres southwest of Kandahar city when an improvised explosive device ripped through their armoured car.
Flags at the Edmonton Garrison are at half-mast while the base has planned a news conference to respond to the tragedy for later this afternoon.
Three of the dead are: Cpl. Cole Bartsch, Pte. Lane Watkins, and Capt. Matthew Johnathan Dawe, all of 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry.
Dawe was deployed in February and leaves behind a one-year-old son, Lucas. The soldiers would have finished their current mission at the end of July to be replaced by troops based in Quebec.
A woman answering the phone in Edmonton, where Dawe lived with his wife, Tara, and son, Lucas, said: “We have no comment to make at this time.”
Master Cpl. Colin Bason, based in New Westminster, B.C., was the only other fallen soldier whose name was released last night. The identities of the other two dead troopers have been temporarily withheld at their families’ request.
The incident raises the total Canadian military casualty count in Afghanistan to 66, with nearly half of the soldiers killed originating from the Edmonton base.
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.
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. “The legacies of our fallen soldiers will be carried on by the men and women in uniform who continue to serve Canada valiantly, and remain committed to creating a stable and self-sustaining democratic society for the Afghan people,” Harper said in the statement.
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.”