Canadian, American killed in Afghanistan firefight

A Canadian soldier was killed early Wednesday when Taliban insurgents attacked a coalition outpost in a remote area outside Kandahar, Afghanistan.

A Canadian soldier was killed early Wednesday when Taliban insurgents attacked a coalition outpost in a remote area outside Kandahar, Afghanistan.

An American soldier and eight Afghan soldiers were also killed in the attack. Three other Canadian soldiers were wounded.

Pte. Robert Costall, 22, was killed when a battle erupted in Helmand province about 110 kilometres northwest of Kandahar, Canadian Forces Brig.-Gen. David Fraser confirmed early Wednesday.

Fraser said Costall died "defending his fellow soldiers and we will not forget his sacrifice."

Born in Thunder Bay, Ont., Costall was with the 1st Battalion of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, based in Edmonton.

Soldiers paused for a moment of silence on the tarmac of the Kandahar air field Wednesday evening as the flag-covered coffin was loaded on a plane for the flight home to Canada.

In an interview with CBC Newsworld, Costall's aunt, Colleen McBain, said her nephew leaves behind his wife, Chrissy, and a one-year-old son, Colin, who live in Edmonton.

McBain said Costall was a "loveable kid" who took great pride in his job and in being Canadian.

"We're going to miss him so dearly," she said.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay and Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor expressed their condolences to Costall's family, while reinforcing the Conservative government's support for the Afghan mission.

"Our UN-mandated mission in Afghanistan is not without risk and we are so very proud of our brave men and women who daily face these dangers while carrying out their duties," Harper said in a statement.

Attack happened in 'thorny area'

The attack took place in a region considered to be a flashpoint for insurgent activity and the illegal drug trade.

The Canadians, along with U.S. helicopters and British planes, had been repositioned to a base in the area in response to a Tuesday afternoon attack on an Afghan supply convoy.

Fraser said Taliban insurgents attacked the base with mortars, grenades and small arms fire around 2:45 a.m. local time Wednesday.

The firefight lasted for several hours, he said, adding that a "significant number" of Taliban members were killed during the battle. U.S. military reports say as many as 32 insurgents died.

The region is key to the Taliban's communication lines, said coalition spokesperson Col. Chris Vernon. Insurgents have been carrying out nightly attacks against the base for the past month, he said.

"It's a pretty thorny area," he said.

About 2,000 British troops are due to move into the region in the next couple of months, he said.

Injured Canadians doing well

The three Canadians injured were in stable condition with non-life threatening injuries, Fraser said. The Department of National Defence said it wouldn't release their identities because they are expected to return to duty.

"They're doing well and receiving good treatment," said Fraser, who commands a multinational force in Kandahar, including about 2,300 Canadian troops.

Canadian Forces surgeon Lt.-Col. Jacques Ricard said two soldiers have been discharged from a coalition medical facility in Kandahar and will remain on the base to recover. They'll likely return to duty within seven to 15 days, he said.

The third soldier will be flown to a U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany for treatment. Ricard said the soldier's wounds are not serious, but it is easier to complete the treatments in Germany.

"They're in very good condition, their spirits are high," he said.

Twelve Canadians have been killed in Afghanistan since 2002 – 11 soldiers and one diplomat.

Earlier this month, Cpl. Paul Davis of Bridgewater, N.S., and Master Cpl. Timothy Wilson of Grande Prairie, Alta., were killed when their light armoured vehicle smashed into a taxi and flipped during a routine patrol near Kandahar.