ACanadian was among seven NATO soldiers killed when their helicopter was reportedlyshot downin southern Afghanistan, military officials confirmed on Thursday.

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Master Cpl. Darrell Priede was eager to capture images of Canada's military mission in Afghanistan. ((Courtesy DND))

Master Cpl. Darrell JasonPriede, a military photographer based at CFB Gagetown, N.B., was killed when the U.S. Chinook helicopter crashed on Wednesday, said Brig.-Gen. Tim Grant, commander of Canada'stroops in Afghanistan.

A British soldier and the Chinook's five-member U.S. crew also died, saida statement from NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

Priede, 30,was originally from Burlington, Ont.,and leaves behind his wife, Angela. He alsohad a photography business in Oromocto, N.B.

"He was a soft-spoken, quiet person and a great listener. He was a very trustworthy, kind and dedicated man who loved his chosen profession of taking pictures both at work and at home," said a statement from the family.

"Our deepest sympathies go out to the family and friends of this wonderful young Canadian," Grant said. "In working to bring peace to this troubled country, he has ended up paying the ultimate sacrifice.

"There is no way to comfort those who grieve at this terrible time."

Thecause of the crash is still being investigated, Grant said.

Taliban may have shot down Chinook

Initial reports said Taliban militants fired rocket-propelled grenades at the twin-rotor CH-47 Chinook transport helicopter, which can carry as many as 40 passengers and crew.

"Last night a little after 9 p.m. local time a Chinook helicopter went down in Helmand province near the Kajaki area," said NATO spokesperson Maj. John Thomas of the U.S. air force.

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Master Cpl. Darrell Priede took this photograph of Gen. Rick Hillier with the Stanley Cup during a recent visit to Canadian soldiers in Kandahar. ((Darrell Priede/DND))

Thomas said other troops with ISAF rushed to the scene, but were attacked and had to call for air support. Dozens of Taliban fighters were killed or wounded in the battle that followed, the Afghan Defence Ministry said.

"After the crash, a unit went in to the crash scene and received small arms fire, from an ambush from the enemy," he said. "It was a hostile area where the helicopter went down, and initial indications are that enemy fire may have brought down the helicopter."

Heavy fighting in Helmand province

A battalion of U.S. forces from the 82nd Airborne Division has been engaged in heavy combat in Helmand province in recent weeks, but British soldiers make up the majority of NATO troops in the volatile region.

The British contingent has been working to protect a hydroelectric dam that is undergoing repairs to provide more power to the city of Kandahar.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in a province described as the world's largest poppy-growing region.

Helicopter crashes in Afghanistan have been relatively rare:

  • A Chinook crashed in February in the southern province of Zabul, killing eight U.S. service members. Officials ruled out enemy fire as the cause.
  • In May 2006, another Chinook crashed while attempting a night landing on a small mountaintop in eastern Kunar province, killing 10 U.S. soldiers.
  • In 2005, a U.S. helicopter crashed in Kunar, after apparently being hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, killing 16 American soldiers.

Priede was the 56th Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan since 2002. More than 2,000 Canadian militarypersonnel are stationed in Afghanistan.

Elsewhere on Thursday, Taliban fighters ambushed a convoy of police in the southern province of Zabul, killing 16 officers and wounding six others, an Interior Ministry spokesman said.

The militants escaped while the Afghan government sent reinforcements to secure the area, Zemaria Bashary said.