OTTAWA (Reuters) - Three Afghan children who died when a shell blew up last week had most likely been handling a Taliban bomb and not a Canadian shell as first suspected, Canada's army said on Monday.
Local villagers blamed last Monday's fatal blast on a shell left behind after Canadian troops carried out an artillery firing practice on a range near the southern city of Kandahar.
The Canadian military said a thorough investigation showed the children had died after they brought back the device to their village.
"The Canadian forces are not responsible for the deaths and injures to these children, in stark contrast perhaps to the initial reports and speculation," Brigadier-General Jon Vance told a televised news conference in Kandahar.
"The most likely cause of this explosion was an anti-personnel IED (improvised explosive device), based on all of the factors at the scene," he said.
Canada has about 2,700 soldiers based in Kandahar on a mission that is due to end in 2011.
Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Peter Galloway