A roadside bomb killed four soldiers in southern Afghanistan on Saturday in the deadliest attack on Canadian forces in four years.
The soldiers were travelling in an armoured vehicle called a G-wagon when it was blown onto its side by an improvised explosive device, 70 kilometres north of Kandahar city, around 7:30 a.m. local time Saturday.
- INDEPTH: Canadian casualties in Afghanistan
- INDEPTH: Canada's equipment in Afghanistan
The Defence Department has identified the Canadians:
- Cpl. Matthew Dinning, born in Richmond Hill, Ont., and stationed at Petawawa, Ont. Lieut. William Turner, born in Toronto and stationed at Edmonton, Bombardier Myles Mansell, born in Victoria, B.C., and stationed at Victoria.
- Cpl. Randy Payne, stationed in Wainwright, Alta.
The four soldiers were in a jeep that was part of a mixed convoy made up of more heavily armoured vehicles, such as LAVs and Bisons.
It was the most serious incident to affect Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan since a friendly fire incident in 2002 when a U.S. pilot bombed Canadian troops by accident, killing four.
Two of the troopers were part of Brig.-Gen. David Fraser's personal protection force. The third was an artillery non-commissioned officer and the fourth man was a liaison officer with local tribal leaders.
"It's closer to home," Fraser told Canadian Press. "I knew these guys."
Canada's newly elected Conservative government has decided not to lower the Canadian flag to half-mast every time a Canadian soldier is killed, saying the automatic flag-lowering was a break with tradition by the Liberals.
"We have returned to the 80-year tradition of remembering all casualties of war or operations on one day, Nov. 11th," Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor told Canadian Press. "We've just returned to a tradition."
The four-vehicle convoy was returning to Kandahar after joining Fraser's goodwill visit Friday with village elders. Fraser, who is also the multi-national brigade commander in southern Afghanistan, returned home by helicopter on Friday night.
"It's a sad day for Task Force Aegis and the coalition," he said. "Those soldiers were conducting operations to enhance the security of the Shah Wali Kot [district].
"They were doing outstanding work, having positive effects. I had actually been in the area yesterday myself, talking with the local leaders [who] indicated that security has improved since we've arrived in the area."
The bodies will be returned to Canada early in the week.
Canada has 2,300 soldiers in southern Afghanistan and took command in February of a multinational force fighting Taliban and al-Qaeda members.
Taliban militants have been stepping up attacks in recent weeks against coalition and Afghan forces across southern Afghanistan, a former Taliban stronghold.
Sixteen Canadians, including a senior diplomat, have been killed in Afghanistan since 2002.