A roadside bomb killed three Canadian soldiers on patrol Wednesday in southern Afghanistan, bringingCanada's total number of fallen soldiers in the Afghan mission to 60.
The soldiers were in a small all-terrain vehicle, transporting suppliesthrough bumpy fields, when they hit the hidden bombnear the town of Sperwan Ghar, southwest of Kandahar.
The Canadian Defence Department identified the soldiers as:
- Cpl. Stephen Frederick Bouzane, 26.
- Pte. Joel Vincent Wiebe, 22.
- Sgt. Christos Karigiannis, (no age provided).
The three were from the Edmonton-based Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, which has lost 27 soldiers since Canada's mission in Afghanistan began in 2002.
of the fallen as they grieve and learn of the death of their loved ones," Brig.-Gen. Tim Grant said in Afghanistan.
"Although we have lost great friends, great young Canadians, we are not deterred from our mission," Grant added. "They're focused, they're dedicated, they know what they're doing."
Bouzane dreamed of being a soldier
Details about the soldiers began to emerge late Wednesday.
Bouzane was born in the northeastern Newfoundland town of Little Bay, but moved as a toddler to Scarborough, Ont.,which is now part of Toronto.
His father Fred said he could tell right away that something was amiss on Wednesday.
"I went out on the bridge for a smoke and saw the three army guys walking up toward the bridge and knew then it wasn't going to be good news," he said from his home in the southern town of St. Alban's. "I was proud of him on the day he was born and proud of him all his life."
Bouzane, a quiet man,wanted to be soldier ever since he was young, his parents said. In Grade 7, he wrote a journal about wanting to ride in tanks like his uncle, who was in the army. In high school he signed up for the army several times, but didn't follow through.
His mother Maureen recalled when Bouzane told her five years agohe had finally joined.
"He phoned and said, 'I'm going to Quebec tomorrow. I just joined the Forces,"' she said through tears. "He finally did it. He did something he always wanted to."
Bouzane's father said hisson will be buried in Little Bay because he told him before he went to Afghanistan that if anything happened, he wanted to be buried in the town where he was born.
No details were released Wednesday about Karigiannis, while only a few details emerged about Wiebe, who was engaged to an Edmonton woman. His fiancée Anna Thede said the family isn't ready to make any public comments until Friday.
Vehicle was 'appropriate for the task'
The three soldiers were travelling in an open-top, unarmoured vehiclein the volatile Panjwaii district at about 8 a.m. local time when they hit an improvised explosive device, the military said.
Improvised explosion devices, or IEDs, have been responsible for about a third of the Canadian deaths in Afghanistan.
Grant said the all-terrain vehicle the soldiers were in, known as an M-Gator, is often used by soldiers to transport small loads. The vehicle can handle rough terrain like the fields the three soldiers were in — fields which were covered in grape vines and riddled withdirt tracks and tall mud walls.
Grant said the M-Gator "was appropriate for the task at hand."
"But we will review how the resupply is done, the equipment that we use, and the procedures in place," he added. "And if we determine that we need to change our tactics, techniques and procedures, then we will do that then."
He said the soldiers were travelling between two checkpoints, only 600-metres apart and staffed by soldiers 24 hours a day, when they hit the bomb.
"So a determined enemy clearly was able to penetrate the defences and the observation in the area to plant this device,"Grant said.
Flags at half-mast at Edmonton base
In Edmonton, at the infantry base where flags now fly at half-mast, soldiers were reeling with the news that their comrades had been killed.
"That's a horrible tragedy," 2nd Lieut. Paul Radoshe said. "Any time any Canadian soldier dies in Afghanistan, it's a sad day for everyone in the Canadian military."
In Ottawa, members of Parliament paid their respects to Canada's latest fallen soldiers.
"We will obviously remember these three fallen members of the Armed Forces in our thoughts and prayers," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in the House of Commons.
Premier Danny Williams spoke out in his province of Newfoundland and Labrador, talking about Newfoundland-native Bouzane in particular.
"We are honoured by the sacrifice that he's made, but to see a young man die is tragic," Williams said.
Bombing on day of funeral
News of thelatest deaths came on the same day as a Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan was to be laid to rest in Bowmanville, Ont.
Trooper Darryl Caswell, 25, died last week while riding in a combat patrol vehicle that hit a roadside bomb about 40 kilometres north of Kandahar.
He was deployed with the Reconnaissance Squadron from the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment battle group and was scheduled to return home in July.
Elsewhere, Canadian and Afghan soldiers killed 15 Taliban fightersin a four-hour running battle Wednesdayin southern Kandahar province, military officials said.
Two Canadians and three Afghan soldiers suffered minor injuries in the battle in the province's Zhari district.