Inukshuk in Afghanistan rededicated to all NATO fallen

NATO forces at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan held a ceremony Monday to commemorate fallen comrades and rededicate a memorial to four Canadian soldiers killed by U.S. friendly fire in 2002.

Canadian and other NATO forces in Kandahar held a short ceremony Monday to commemorate fallen comrades and rededicate a memorial to four soldiers from this country mistakenly killed by a U.S. warplane attack in 2002.

The memorial is uniquely Canadian, a stone cairn known in Inuit culture as an Inukshuk, and it stands inside Kandahar Airfield.

An Inukshuk memorial to Canadian, U.S. and British soldiers killed in Afghanistan, as well as to the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, was re-dedicated Monday at Kandahar Airfield by Americans celebrating Memorial Day. ((Murray Brewster/Canadian Press))
It was originally built in honour of the four soldiers killed at Tarnak Farms in July 2002, when a U.S. flight crew dropped a laser-guided bomb on a night firing exercise involving troops from the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry.

Eight Canadians were also injured in the incident.

In Monday's ceremony, held as part of commemorations on the base for the U.S. holiday Memorial Day, the deputy commander of the Canadian mission in Afghanistan, Col. Jamie Cade, said the Inukshuk now honoured all troops killed in the country.

"We stand as soldiers, not just as allies, but also as friends," Cade said.

The symbol was originally located near the runway at the base. However, it was recently damaged in an accident involving a contractor.

The Inuit stone marker has since been fully reconstructed and moved to the airfield's boardwalk area, where it's more accessible for soldiers to pay their respects.

At Monday's ceremony, attended by Canadian, British, U.S. and Australian troops, the Kandahar base commander, Air Commodore Bob Judson of Britain's Royal Air Force said the Inukshuk was a fitting memorial to all who fought in Afghanistan.

"It also represents a way of telling those who come after us that we were here now," he said.

CBC's Susan Lunn in Kandahar says the ceremony comes as attacks by the Taliban on coalition forces are increasing, with more frequent rocket salvos by militants and Sunday's suicide bombing that left four Canadian soldiers injured.

A U.S. military probe into the Tarnak Farms incident blamed the two American pilots for not following established procedures. The men were later charged with dereliction of duty and reprimanded.


With files from the Canadian Press