Canadian soldier found dead on Kandahar base

A 22-year-old Canadian soldier was found dead in Afghanistan on Tuesday, but a top military official said the death was not related to combat.

Soldier was from Quebec, but based in Manitoba

A 22-year-old Canadian soldier was found dead in Afghanistan on Tuesday, but a top military commander said the death was not related to combat.

Bombardier Jérémie Ouellet, 22, was found dead Tuesday on the military base in Kandahar.

Brig.-Gen. Guy Laroche told reporters that Bombardier Jérémie Ouellet was found at 2:15 p.m. local time in the sleeping quarters at Kandahar airfield, the main NATO military base in southern Afghanistan.

Laroche said the Canadian military is investigating the circumstances surrounding Ouellet's death. He said more details would be provided once the investigation is complete.

"Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Bombardier Ouellet," Laroche said at a late-night briefing in Kandahar, 12 hours after Ouellet was found.

"Our primary focus at this time is to provide the best possible support to his family and colleagues."

Ouellet was from Matane, Que., and served with the 1st Regiment Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, which is based in Shilo, Man. He had only arrived in Afghanistan in the past few weeks.

The military police's major crimes unit will tackle the investigation. The unit, known as the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service, examines all incidents involving Canadian military personnel or property in Canada and abroad.

Ouellet was stationed at Kandahar airfield with about 10,000 other soldiers who are part of NATO's International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

The airfield, which resembles a miniature city with restaurants and recreation facilities, is the headquarters for the Canadian mission, but American, British and Dutch personnel also have a strong presence there. All the soldiers sleep in barracks or tents. 

Only about half of the 2,500 Canadian soldiers deployed in Afghanistan live on the base.

80th Canadian soldier to die

Ouellet is the 80th Canadian soldier to die in Afghanistan since the mission began in 2002. A Canadian diplomat has also been killed.

Brig.-Gen. Guy Laroche tells reporters in Kandahar on Tuesday that the military is investigating the death of Bombardier Jérémie Ouellet. ((Stephanie Levitz/Canadian Press))

The last time a Canadian soldier was killed on the Kandahar base was in March 2007, when Cpl. Kevin Megeney died after being shot in the chest. An investigation into that incident is still going on.

Other Canadian soldiers have died in non-combat situations in Afghanistan.

Master Cpl. Jeffery Scott Walsh was killed in a shooting accident while on patrol outside Kandahar in August 2006. Master Cpl. Robbie Fraser was charged with one count of manslaughter and one count of negligent performance of duty.

Maj. Raymond Ruckpaul was found dead of a gunshot wound in Kabul in August 2007. The military ruled Ruckpaul committed suicide, the only reported suicide involving a Canadian soldier in Afghanistan.

Another soldier, Pte. Frederic Couture, was reported to have committed suicide after returning home from Afghanistan with an amputated leg. Couture was found dead in his Montreal home in November.

Ouellet's death comes a week after Trooper Michael Hayakaze, 25, was killed by a roadside bomb. Hayakaze, who served with an Edmonton-based regiment, died only days before he was to wrap up his tour of duty in Afghanistan.

With files from the Canadian Press