Medic emerges as heroic figure in Afghan convoy tragedy

As Paul Franklin and two badly wounded comrades are airlifted to Germany, the Edmonton medic is emerging as the hero of Sunday's car-bomb attack on a Canadian convoy in Afghanistan.

As Paul Franklin and two badly wounded comrades are airlifted to Germany, the Edmonton medic is emerging as the hero of Sunday's car-bomb attack on a Canadian convoy in Afghanistan.

Master Cpl. Paul Franklin, a medic, told his wife that the blast severed part of one leg and broke the other. (File Photo Courtesy Department of National Defence)

Cpl. Jeffrey Bailey and Pte. William Salikin are in critical condition in "medically induced unconsciousness," while Franklin, who lost part of a leg, is in serious condition, a Canadian officer in Kandahar said.

Franklin's wife Audra, who spoke to him by phone, says he saved his own life by applying a tourniquet to his severed left leg. His right leg was also broken in the blast.

But Franklin's bravery is believed to have gone even further than that. Military sources say he crawled to his wounded comrades and gave them first-aid that may have saved their lives.

"They're all in fine care at this point," Lt.-Col. Steve Borland, deputy commander of the Kandahar force, said Monday. "They have just recently departed for Germany – Landstuhl, Germany – to receive further medical treatment."

Landstuhl is home to a U.S. military hospital, the biggest American hospital outside the United States.

The bomber attacked the convoy as it was returning to the coalition forces base near Kandahar.

Diplomat Glyn Berry. (Courtesy Department of National Defence)

The blast hurled the armoured Mercedes jeep, carrying the Canadians into a row of shops.

It killed Glyn Berry, 59, the political director of the provincial reconstruction team in Afghanistan. Foreign Affairs said he was the first Canadian diplomat to be slain abroad.

The attack also killed two Afghan civilians and injured 13 people, including the three Canadian soldiers – Bailey of 1 Combat Engineer Regiment, Salikin of 3rd Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry and Franklin of 1 Field Ambulance.

Berry spent nearly three decades working as a diplomat, including postings at the United Nations and in Pakistan, before he began his work in Afghanistan in August.

His military and diplomatic colleagues described him as a dedicated diplomat who passionately believed in the rule of international law.

Pte. William Salikin (File Photo Courtesy Department of National Defence)

"When I spoke with his widow today, she spoke touchingly about how important he felt this work was and how much he felt he was making a difference," Peter Harder, of Foreign Affairs Canada, told reporters. "His loss touches us all."

Brig.-Gen. Tim Grant, commander of military forces in Western Canada, said all three soldiers were due to return home within weeks.

Grant told a news conference that the city's tight-knit military community was hit hard by news of the attack.

But he also said Canadian troops working in Afghanistan knew the risks and felt they were worth taking.

"The life we sign up for is dangerous. It's a risky environment," Grant said. "They're doing an important job over there and they all understand that, and they all understand the risk they take."

The Taliban claimed responsibility for Sunday's attack, which witnesses said occurred when a vehicle swerved into the convoy and exploded.

Cpl. Jeff Bailey (File Photo Courtesy Department of National Defence)

Defence officials said the convoy was travelling in armoured Mercedes-Benz Gelaendewagens, known as G Wagons. In December, three soldiers, with the Edmonton-based 3rd battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry were injured when a bomb detonated under their vehicle in Afghanistan.

The attack highlighted the increasing dangers for coalition troops in Afghanistan. In Kandahar, Borland said attacks on coalition forces have become more frequent.

"Contrary to previous years, there is not a winter lull," he said.

He said there is no indication that Sunday's attack was aimed specifically at Canadians. The attackers do not differentiate between the groups that make up the coalition, he said.

There have been more than 25 suicide car bombings in the past four months, with militants using the once-rare tactic to try to destabilize the country.

The wreckage of a vehicle is seen after the explosion that happened in Kandahar, Afghanistan on Sunday. (AP Photo)

In late November, a Canadian soldier was killed in Afghanistan when the armoured vehicle he was riding in rolled over near the city of Kandahar. Pte. Braun Scott Woodfield, 24, was the eighth Canadian soldier to die in Afghanistan since 2002.

In April 2002, four soldiers from the 3rd battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry were killed when an American pilot accidentally bombed them during a training exercise.

Afghanistan receives Canada's largest foreign commitment in both dollars and military deployments.

Canada has about 650 troops there, with plans to increase its military presence in Kandahar to about 2,000 in February.

Prime Minister Paul Martin issued a statement expressing his concern and condolences "on behalf of all Canadians. Mr. Berry had a long and distinguished career of service to Canadians at home and abroad."

The PM's statement went on to wish "the three Canadian soldiers who were injured, a speedy and complete recovery."