A Canadian soldier based in Petawawa, Ont., was killed by Iraqi Kurdish forces who "mistakenly engaged" in combat in Iraq, according to the Department of National Defence.
Sgt. Andrew Joseph Doiron from the Canadian Special Operations Regiment, based at Garrison Petawawa, was killed on Friday around 3:50 p.m. ET, according to a news release.
Doiron is from Moncton, N.B., and graduated from a high school in the area in 2001, CBC News has learned. He is the first Canadian soldier killed during Canada's current mission to Iraq.
"Members of the Special Operations Forces were mistakenly engaged by Iraqi Kurdish forces following their return to an observation post behind the front lines," the release stated.
Three other soldiers were injured and were being treated in Iraq, the release added.
Defence Minister Jason Kenney, who spoke in Ottawa on Saturday, said those three soldiers were listed in stable condition.
Death will not affect Iraq extension decision
Kenney said Doiron's death would not affect the government's decision about whether to extend the mission in Iraq.
Just this week, Foreign Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson made a secret trip to Iraq to discuss the mission and a possible extension. At the time, Nicholson said, "While the risk overall is not a high risk, nonetheless there is a risk anytime you are deployed."
About 600 Canadian Forces personnel are deployed for Operation Impact, assisting Kurdish troops in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.
That includes aircrew support such as command, control and logistics.
There are also 69 members of the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command in Iraq working in an advisory and assistance role by providing strategic and tactical advice to Iraqi security forces.
Canadian special forces have exchanged fire with ISIS at least three times since being deployed.
They were sent to help train Kurdish fighters last September in a mission that was billed as non-combat with the elite troops working far behind the front lines.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper told Parliament in late September that the soldiers would not accompany the Kurdish fighters to the front lines, but Gen. Tom Lawson, chief of the defence staff, said in January that they do 80 per cent of the training and advising behind the front lines and about 20 per cent right at the front lines.
The general also revealed Canadian soldiers have been helping the Kurdish fighters by directing coalition airstrikes against Islamic State fighters, a role generally considered risky because it means they are close to the battle against the militants.
Opposition defence critic Jack Harris promised the NDP will be asking "hard questions" about the deployment, saying "it's not what we were promised by this government back in November."
Kenney said the death "had nothing to do with combat."
Soldier was 'gifted,' a 'great leader'
Kenney offered his "infinite gratitude" to Doiron and lauded him as a "Canadian patriot."
Harper also offered his condolences.
"On behalf of all Canadians, Laureen and I offer our deepest condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Sgt. Doiron. We also offer our prayers for the speedy recovery of the other three injured members of the Canadian Armed Forces," the statement said.
The White House offered condolences and said the U.S. and its coalition partners "proudly stand with Canada."
Brig.-Gen. Michael Rouleau said every member of Canada's Special Operations Forces Command feels a great loss.
"He was a gifted special operator and a great leader," Rouleau said. "He loved his job and the people he soldiered with.
"We will bring Drew home with all dignity and wrap our arms around our injured brothers and we will carry on with our important mission in Iraq."
Lawson remembered Doiron as an "invaluable member of our family."
"A soldier and a warrior, Sgt. Doiron was a consummate professional appreciated by all. His sacrifice will not be forgotten. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends. I am grateful for his service and dedication. He will be missed."
Stephanie Learmouth, a friend of Doiron in New Brunswick, said Doiron had wanted to be in the army since a young age.
"He had lots of pride and was very proud of what he did. He loved his family. He had great relationships with a lot of people, a great love of animals and climbing. He'll definitely be remembered by a lot of people for his sense of humour, how sympathetic he was, how easy he was to approach and talk to."