A Canadian colonel was among 18 people killed Tuesday in a suicide car bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Five U.S. soldiers and 12 Afghan civilians also died in the blast.
The Canadian was identified as Col. Geoff Parker, 42, who had been the commanding officer of the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment, a mechanized unit based at CFB Gagetown, N.B. He is the highest-ranking Canadian Forces member to die in Afghanistan.
"Col. Parker was in Kabul to interact with the various international organizations there in order to prepare his team for their upcoming mission," said Col. Simon Hetherington, the deputy commander of Task Force Kandahar.
"As a battalion commander, he led his soldiers from the front and with distinction. The post he was preparing to fill was important and of such high profile, he was hand-picked from across the army to do so. A rising star. His potential was undeniable."
Parker was born and raised in Oakville, Ont. A 1990 graduate of the University of Western Ontario, Parker was married with a son and a daughter, according to his military biography.
"On behalf of everyone in Oakville, I want to express my deep condolences to Col. Parker's family and to express our town's sense of loss," said Oakville Mayor Rob Burton. "He's the first solider from Oakville killed in Afghanistan, and all of us grieve for his family, and all of us know that our community has lost one of its best and brightest souls."
The city has ordered that all flags on public buildings be flown at half-mast until after Col. Parker's body is returned to Canada.
Parker is the 145th member of the Canadian Forces to die in Afghanistan since the current mission began in 2002.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he was "deeply saddened" to hear of the death of Parker, whom he hailed as a "professional, dedicated soldier."
"My sincere condolences go out to Col. Parker's family and friends, who should be extremely proud of his honourable service to his country," Harper said Tuesday in a statement.
"On behalf of Canada, I also extend my sympathies to the families and friends of the five American service members and numerous Afghans who perished in the same attack."
Five U.S. deaths
U.S. forces spokesman Col. Wayne Shanks confirmed that five of the dead from the Kabul bombing were American.
"I strongly condemn the suicide attack today in Kabul, which has led to the death of Afghan civilians and ISAF soldiers, and injuries to many more Afghans," NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in a statement.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the blasts, which happened early Tuesday in a west Kabul neighbourhood near an army recruitment centre and many government buildings.
President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack, saying women and children were among the victims.
12 Afghan civilians killed
At least 12 Afghan civilians were killed and 47 people were injured in the attack, which struck at least five NATO vehicles, a bus and a number of private cars.
"It was morning rush hour, the street packed with traffic, the sidewalk crowded with pedestrians," journalist Tom Popyk said, noting that American troops moved into the area after the blast to assist with rescue efforts.
"I saw one person lying on the ground with no head," said Mirza Mohammad, who was on his way to work when the blast happened up the road.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told The Associated Press in a phone call from an undisclosed location that the bomber was a man from Kabul and his car was packed with 750 kilograms of explosives. The attacker targeted foreign forces, he said.
Tuesday's bombing is the deadliest attack on NATO forces in the capital since September, when a suicide blast killed six Italian soldiers.
The attack comes as NATO readies a major offensive in the southern province of Kandahar, a major Taliban stronghold.