Capt. Nichola Goddard was serving as a forward observer with the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry in Afghanistan. ((Canadian Press))

A female soldier from Canada was killed while fighting Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan on Wednesday, military officials said.

Capt. Nichola Goddard, 26, had been serving in Afghanistan with the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry. She was a member of the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, based in Shilo, Man.

She is the first Canadian woman to be killed in action since the Second World War, and the first female combat soldier killed on the front lines.

Goddard died about 6:55 p.m. local time (10:25 a.m. EDT) in a military operation against Taliban forces near Kandahar, where the majority of the country's 2,300 soldiers in Afghanistan are serving.

Canadian soldiers had been called in to support Afghan troops fighting in the Panjwai region, about 24 kilometres west of Kandahar.

When the battle ended,18 Taliban militants had been killed,and35 captured, Canadian Forces spokesman Maj. Scott Lundy said. Three Afghan soldiers were wounded.

Goddard was from Calgary and lived with her husband, Jason Beam, at the Canadian Forces Base in Shilo. She had no children.

Beam, to whom she had been married since 2002, told CBC News that Goddard joined the forces eight years ago, enlisting in the military right out of high school.

He said he last spoke with her Tuesday, and she was excited about the mission that, in the end, claimed her life.

Goddard was serving as a forward observer, helping to target the artillery by observing where the shells fell. She was supposed to be home in September.

'It's a hard day'

Maj. Liam McGarrey said that Goddard had been marked for rapid advancement.

Word of Goddard's death slowly filtered through the base as soldiers attended a morale-boosting concert featuring Canadian musicians.

Goddard's remains are to be sent by plane to Canada on Friday during a ramp ceremony at the main Kandahar base.

Brig.-Gen. David Fraser, who commands Canadian and coalition forces in Kandahar, offered his sympathies to Goddard's family.

"It's a hard day, but it's also a day of achievements here," said Fraser, who stood in front of a Canadian flag at half-mast. "The government of Afghanistan and the Afghan national security forces have had a good successful day. There was significant Taliban casualties both killed and captured.

"Unfortunately, the cost today was the life of Nichola."

PM salutes soldier's contribution

In a statement, Prime Minister Stephen Harper acknowledged Goddard's contribution.

"Capt. Goddard died while helping to bring peace, stability and democracy to a troubled region of the world. She, and the other men and women who serve in Afghanistan, are involved in a difficult and dangerous mission."

Manitoba Premier Gary Doer said the province will fly its flag at half-mast in Goddard's honour.

"I just want to say, on behalf of the people of Manitoba, we respect her life of bravery and honour on behalf of Canada, and we offer our condolences to the family and to the community of Shilo," he said.

Goddard's death raises Canada's toll in Afghanistan to 16 soldiers and one diplomat since the mission beganin 2002.

Dozens of Canadian women have died while serving in the First and Second World Wars, says the Department of National Defence:

  • Forty-three women in the Canadian military died in the First World War – 29 in enemy action on the Western Front.
  • Seventy-one female members of the Canadian Forces died in the Second World War, including five combat-related deaths – four during the bombing of London and one when a German U-boat sank the SS Caribou.
  • There were no women military casualties in the Korean War.