KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - A period of relative calm for Canadian soldiers trying to bring stability to Afghanistan was shattered Monday when a makeshift bomb cut short the life of an infantryman on foot patrol in the treacherous Panjwaii district of Kandahar province.
Pte. Alexandre (Pelo) Peloquin, 20, of the 3e Bataillon, Royal 22e Regiment, was based at Canadian Forces Base Valcartier near Quebec City.
"Pelo, as named by his friends, was a strong man, remarkably fit and very courageous," said Brig.-Gen. Jonathan Vance, the senior commander of the Canadian Forces in Kandahar province, cradle of the Taliban insurgency.
"His family and friends should be very proud of him, and so should all Canadians, for he represented the very best of Canada."
No one else was hurt in the blast.
Peloquin is survived by his mother Monique.
The explosion occurred in the village of Nakhoney, about 15 kilometres southwest of Kandahar city in an area where insurgents have stepped up their attacks on Canadian forces in the region.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a statement expressing sorrow and offering condolences to Peloquin's family and friends.
"I join with Canadians who stand proudly with our men and women of the Canadian Forces as they courageously risk their lives every day to bring peace and security to the people of Afghanistan," Harper's statement said.
He added that "real, measurable progress has been made in Afghanistan, but much remains to be done."
Canadian soldiers have dubbed Nakhoney as one corner of Panjwaii's "Taliban triangle," a well-known hub of insurgent activity going back to 2006.
Some people there have been hostile to the international military presence, and it is believed to be a staging area and logistics hub for insurgent attacks in Kandahar city.
Peloquin had been serving as a member of the 2e Bataillon, Royal 22e Regiment Battle Group, during a six-day operation to find and neutralize improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.
The group removed material for hundreds of IEDs, and 15 of the terror weapons were taken out of circulation on Monday, Vance said.
"The local population is extremely happy and wants us to continue," Vance said.
"Pte. Peloquin was part of a successful operation, and he contributed to that success today."
It was Canada's first death in Afghanistan since April 23, when 30-year-old Maj. Michelle Mendes, an intelligence officer based in Ottawa, was found dead in an accommodation room at Kandahar Airfield, the main base.
Canadian soldiers routinely leave the safety of their operating bases to walk city and village streets, searching for improvised explosive devices or stopping to talk to locals in an effort to bridge the vast divide between them.
It was during such a patrol that Peloquin was killed.
The death comes as Canada attempts to move away from a hard-edged combat role to a more supportive mission ahead of its scheduled military departure in 2011.
Peloquin's death brings to 119 the total number of Canadian soldiers who have died on the mission to Afghanistan since it began in 2002.
"This young man sacrificed his life for a greater cause; he believed in his role as a soldier and his dedication to the overall mission was truly outstanding," Vance said.
"Alexandre was proud to be a soldier. He will be missed."