CTV.ca News Staff
Two Canadian soldiers and their Afghan interpreter were killed after their Light Armoured Vehicle hit a roadside bomb near Kandahar.
Three other Canadian soldiers were wounded in Saturday's incident and were transported to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
The dead have been identified as Cpl. Nicolas Raymond Beauchamp, 28, of the 5th Field Ambulance in Valcartier and Pte. Michel Levesque, 25, of 3rd Battalion, the Royal 22nd Regiment -- popularly known as the Van Doos.
Levesque's parents live in Riviere-Rouge in the Laurentians, about 200 kilometres northwest of Montreal. Their neighbor and friend Lisa Roy spent time Saturday consoling the family. Roy says Levesque was a longtime friend of her son, who is also a soldier.
"He was really a nice little boy,'' Roy said.
"It's not because he's dead that we're saying nice things about him. Michel was really a nice little boy.''
Riviere-Rouge Mayor Deborah Belanger gave Levesque the town's flag before he left for Afghanistan.
He brought photos of the flag flying at the base at Kandahar when he came home on leave just two weeks ago.
"It's a heartbreak,'' Belanger told The Canadian Press. "When I got the news this morning, it was a real blow ... especially such a young person. We don't need to lose more young people, that's for sure.''
The incident in which Levesque and Beauchamp died occurred in Zhari District, about 40 kilometres west of Kandahar City.
The soldiers were north of a Canadian forward operating base near the village of Bhazar-e Panjawaii when the blast occurred shortly after midnight.
They were inside a LAV-III armoured vehicle.
Today's deaths bring Canada's toll to 73 military personnel and one diplomat since 2002.
One Canadian Senator says Canada's allies have to step up to the plate to pull their share of the weight in Afghanistan. Tommy Banks told CTV News Edmonton that many NATO allies are putting up too many conditions about where or how they'll serve in the country.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper called the soldiers "exceptional Canadians" who "deserve the gratitude and respect of this nation."
Saturdays' deaths mark the first fatalities since Sept. 24, when Cpl. Nathan Hornburg died. A mortar shell killed him as he was out on patrol.
Retired major general Lew MacKenzie told CTV Newsnet the incident took place more than 12 hours ago.
While information is sketchy, MacKenzie said there are two main types of roadside bombs -- more formally known as improvised explosive devices, or IEDs: The IED is fired at the vehicle, or is detonated as the vehicle drives over the device.
Military analyst Sunil Ram told Newsnet that IEDs are evolving. While vehicles like LAVs are well-protected from landmine-style blasts from below, "we're now seeing explosively formed projectiles ... which can simply cut through the armour from the sides."
MacKenzie thought Canadian troops were doing the best they could in defending themselves against IEDs.
"I must give the forces a lot of credit, because they intercept the vast majority of these things -- some while they're being built, some while they're being set up, and some before they explode," he said.
"But regrettably, in a volatile situation, one or two of them every once in a while actually work, and tragedy in this case is it actually did."
Zhari has been an active area of operations in recent days, MacKenzie said.
That was echoed by Col. Christian Juneau at the Kandahar Air Field, who said the soldiers had been participating in a targeted security operation with Afghan forces. He told reporters that the Taliban were "desperate" to end their fall combat season on a high note with a "spectacular event."
"This is an extremely difficult and emotional time for the families, friends and colleagues of those who have lost their lives or have been injured today," Juneau said.
"The presence of every single soldier here contributes to building a better future for the people of Afghanistan. I can only hope that this thought will be of some comfort to those who are grieving today."
Death of two Canadian soldiers a 'heartbreak' CTV