Bodies of 2 soldiers begin journey home

Soldiers gathered at Kandahar airbase Sunday to bid farewell to two fallen comrades killed in an ambush as their bodies began the long journey back to Canada.

Soldiers gathered at Kandahar airbase Sunday to bid farewell to two fallen comrades killed in an ambush on Saturday.

Sgt.Darcy Tedford and Pte.Blake Williamson,both with the 1st Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment based at CFB Petawawa in eastern Ontario, were killed when a rocket-propelled grenade exploded over their heads while they were patrolling a road construction project west of the city of Kandahar.

A bagpiper played Amazing Grace as the men's flag-draped caskets were borne by some of their closest friends into a waiting C-130 Hercules that will carry them home. It is the third ramp ceremony in two weeks.

Two soldiers were also wounded in the battle, military officials said. They are instable condition and their injuries are not considered life-threatening.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered his condolences Sunday to the families and friends of the soldiers and paid tribute to their efforts in the Afghan mission.

"It is with courage and heroism that Sgt. Darcy Tedford and Pte. Blake Williamson have sacrificed their life to bring stability, democracy and peace in Afghanistan," Harper said in a statement.

"The government stands proudly with our men and women of the Canadian Forces, as they devotedly continue this mission to help Afghans establish a better life for themselves, while also protecting us from the threat of global terrorism."

'Ambush Alley'

Militants attacked as the soldiers were working on a road designed to offer safer passage from the volatile Panjwaii district to Kandahar. The road, Highway 1, is often referred to by Canadian soldiers as "Ambush Alley."

The attack occurred in the same area where several Canadian soldiers have been killed in recent weeks.Taliban militants have been stepping up attacks in the country's south, particularly in Kandahar and Helmand provinces.

"The Taliban don't like roads because roads mean progress," Brig.-Gen. David Fraser, the Canadian and NATO commander in southern Afghanistan, said during a news conference at Kandahar airbase Saturday.

"That progress will be challenged every day by that organization called the Taliban, who wants to take it down. Whatever they destroy, we will rebuild."

The deaths of the soldiers brings the number of Canadian military fatalities in Afghanistan to 42.

Canada has more than 2,000 troops in the Kandahar area who are working with NATO to fight Taliban forces.

With files from the Canadian Press