Three Canadian soldiers killed in Afghan attack
OTTAWA (Reuters) - Three Canadian soldiers were killed in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday when their armored vehicle was attacked by militants, in what Canada's top general acknowledged as a worrisome jump in direct violence.
Five other soldiers were injured in the same incident, two of them seriously. The military gave few details but said the men had not been killed by a roadside bomb.
So far 96 Canadian soldiers have died since Ottawa deployed troops to Afghanistan in late 2002. Canada has around 2,500 soldiers based in the southern city of Kandahar on a mission that is due to end in 2011.
"The soldiers were conducting a security patrol when the attack occurred," said Brigadier-General Denis Thompson, who commands the Canadian force in Afghanistan.
"They returned fire, both with small arms and they attempted to return fire using other assets as well," he told a televised news conference in Kandahar.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attacks, according to the SITE Institute, a U.S.-based terrorism monitoring service. It said that Canadian and Dutch forces were targeted in Kandahar and Uruzgan provinces. The statement said a total of 16 Canadian soldiers were killed in two Kandahar districts.
Two of the dead were 21 and the other was 23 years old. Thompson said they had all been coming to the end of their scheduled tours of duty.
Two weeks ago three Canadian soldiers died in a bomb blast in the same area.
With Canadians expected to vote in a national election next month, the worsening security situation in Afghanistan, and rising death toll among the country's soldiers, stands to be a big campaign issue for the government of Stephen Harper. Continued...