Coalition troopsstood solemnlyfor another ramp ceremony atKandahar Airport, watchingsoldiers slowly carry the flag-draped caskets of the six Canadians killed this week bya roadside bomb.

The bodies of Captain Jefferson Francis, Captain Matthew Dawe, Master Cpl. Colin Bason, Cpl. Cole Bartsch, Cpl. Jordan Anderson and Pte. Lane Watkins are now on their way home to Canada.

With the sounds of bagpipes wafting into the air, the coffins made their way throughthe sea of mourners into the back of a waiting Hercules aircraft.

The latest deaths mean 66 Canadian soldiers and one diplomat have been killed since the mission to Afghanistan started five years ago.

Earlier Friday, engineers who raced to the site of the blasttold military officials they had never seen a bigger roadside bomb during their deployment to the country.


Lt.-Col. Rob Walker says soldiers are finding and disarming many roadside bombs. ((CBC))

Kandahar battle group commander Lt.-Col. Rob Walker, who spoke to reporters Friday in Kandahar, said the blast caused a crater measuring three metres wide and about 1½metres deep.

The RG-31 Nyala armoured vehicle the soldiers were travelling in was destroyed, he said, adding he believes the men were killed instantly.

"To be quite honest and truthful, when I looked at it I went 'Wow, this is powerful,'" Walker said Friday. "I knew looking at the vehicle these young men died instantly."

Walker defended the military's use of the RG-31 as a dependable method of transport in a war zone.

"There was no vehicle— the RG is one of the best vehicles in the world— and there was no vehicle that was going to survive that," he said.

Walker said the bomb rivalled the one that killed six other Canadian soldiers in April.

Troops disarming IEDs

Despite the tragic deaths, Walker insisted soldiers are finding and disarming many roadside bombs.

Walker said in the last year alone, there have been roughly 150 Improvised Explosive Device attacks against coalition forces in Kandahar province. About the same number of IEDs have been defused by troops after being spotted by locals or soldiers themselves.

"Two-thirds of those IEDs were reported to coalition forces by people outside of the coalition," said Walker. "That doesn't even include the IEDs that we've avoided. These are the IEDs that we know about."

The military would not reveal exactly what kind of explosive killed the men. IEDs can be made with anything from grenades to anti-tank mines.

B.C. community mourns

The cost of the mission in human termsis being felt in communities across the country.

New Westminster, B.C., home to the Royal Westminster Regiment, is mourning the loss of a reservist, Bason,for just the second time in 60 years.

Lt.-Col. Matthew Haussmann had to deliver the sad news toBason's family.

"It doesn't matter whether it's a reservist from B.C. or a regular force soldier from Newfoundland. It's heartbreaking," he said.

"And yet, when you know someone personally, it's worse."

Margaret Bellamy, who enjoys watching the regiment train in the park across from her New Westminster home, said she has a new respect for her fallen neighbour.

"We get a little bit of snow, and they're all dressed in white and they're crawlingthrough the snow and you'll see them running through the trees and it's almost amusing to watch," said Bellamy.

"Then something like this makes you realize that… this is all for real."

Imelda Beglaw, whose son is about to leave for Afghanistan, said Bason's death has rippled through the community, and the deaths have shaken her personally.

"As a mother you have to respect their wishes, but you don't want them to go," shesaid.

Roughly 2,500 Canadian soldiers are stationed in Afghanistan's southern Kandahar province as part of a NATO-led mission.

With files from the Canadian Press