Two Canadian soldiers and an Afghan interpreter were killed Saturday after the vehiclethey were travelling in strucka roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan, a military official said.

Three other Canadians were woundedin the blastin Zhari district,about 40 kilometres west of Kandahar City.


Cpl. Nicolas Beauchamp ((Cpl. Martine Morin/Canadian Armed Forces/Canadian Press))

The Canadians who died wereidentified asCpl. Nicolas Raymond Beauchamp, 28,of the 5th Field Ambulance in Valcartier, Que.,and Pte. Michel Levesque, 25,of Quebec's Royal22nd Regiment, also known as the Van Doos.

They were riding in a Light Armoured Vehicle (LAV) that hit an IED (improvised explosive device) on a road north of a Canadian forward operating base near Bazar-e Panjwaii.

The injuredwere transported to hospital at Kandahar Air Field with non-life threatening injuries, saidCol. Christian Juneau.

Zhari districtis a dangerous area that has seen regularattacks byTaliban fighters.

"The area is fairly active in terms of insurgent activities," Juneau said. "However, you have to understand that the insurgents are desperate for a spectacular event or spectacular victory that would help them finish the fighting season on a high note.


Pte. Michel Levesque ((Cpl. Martine Morin/Canadian Armed Forces/Canadian Press))

"Theyhaven't been very successful so far this season," he added.

Juneau called this a "difficult and emotional time" for family, friends and colleagues of the soldiers involved.

"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," he said.

Soldier'shometown in mourning

The two latest casualtiesbring thenumber of Canadians killed in Afghanistanto 73 soldiers and one diplomat since the mission began in 2002.

In a statement, Prime Minister Stephen Harper expressed his condolences to the friends and families of Beauchamp and Levesque and wished a speedy recovery to the three wounded soldiers.

"These are all exceptional Canadians who deserve the gratitude and respect of this nation," Harper said. "The actions of these brave soldiers have brought hope to the Afghan people."

News of the deaths sent shockwaves through Levesque's hometown of Rivière-Rouge, a small village in the Laurentians about 200 kilometres northwest of Montreal.

"He was really a nice little boy," said a shaken Lise Roy, who lives two doors from Levesque's parents.

"It's not because he's dead that we're saying nice things about him. Michel was really a nice little boy."

Levesque was a longtime friend of Roy's son, Eric, who is also a soldier. Shesaid she spent part of Saturday consoling Levesque's parents, Michel Sr. and Elizabeth, after the family heard about the explosion early Saturday morning.

"We have been thinking of him every day (since he left)," Roy said.

Rivière-Rouge Mayor Deborah Belanger saidLevesquerecently announced he was engaged to be married.

"The entire town is in mourning for this child right now," she said.

With files from the Canadian Press