2 Canadian soldiers die in vehicle rollover
The crash of a light armoured vehicle in rough terrain took the lives of two Canadian soldiers during a mission in the volatile Zhari district of southern Afghanistan.
The incident happened at about 6:30 p.m. local time on Sunday in the Nalgham region, about 40 kilometres southwest of Kandahar city. The soldiers were moving across "rough and difficult terrain" when the rollover occurred, the military said.
The incident was unrelated to enemy fire, occurring as the troops were returning to base from a clearance operation in the area, the CBC's James Cudmore reported from Kandahar.
"Their day had ended," he said.
Cpl. Eric Labbé, who was with the 2nd Battalion, Royal 22nd Regiment from CFB Valcartier near Quebec City, died instantly. He was born in Rimouski, Que. The name of the second soldier is being withheld at the family's request.
Both soldiers were in the turret of the LAV III when they died. Two other soldiers who were inside the vehicle, which was travelling to a location to set up camp for the night, were unhurt.
"We're saddened by this tragic loss," Brig.-Gen Guy Laroche said. "They will be missed and we will honour their sacrifice to the service of Canada and their contribution to bring peace to the people of Afghanistan."
The two dead soldiers were part of operation Teng Azem, or Steadfast Decision, an operation to flush insurgents out of an area around the Nalgham community in the Zhari district, the military said.
At least 2 previous rollover incidents
The military said an investigation of the accident is underway.
Some have criticized the LAV III for being too top-heavy and prone to tipping over, with reports of at least two previous rollover incidents involving the vehicles and Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan, the CBC's Cudmore said.
The vehicles are also credited for providing superior protection from improvised explosive devices that are a common threat in the Afghan mission.
But Laroche defended the vehicles and said the rollover on a mud dirt path was a tragic accident.
"With the rain that we had here the past day, the terrain was very difficult," Laroche said. "There's no issue with the vehicle as such."
These latest casualties bring the number of Canadians killed in Afghanistan to 76 soldiers and one diplomat since the mission began in 2002.