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Roadside blast claims 3 N.B.-based soldiers in Afghanistan

The Canadian military has identified three soldiers based at CFB Gagetown who were killed Saturday when their armoured vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device in southern Afghanistan.

Troops were responding to reports of suspicious object being planted

Cpl. Thomas James Hamilton, left, Pte. Justin Peter Jones, centre, and Pte. John Michael Roy Curwin, right, all members of Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, based at CFB Gagetown in New Brunswick, were killed by an improvised explosive device Saturday, in southern Afghanistan. ((DND))
The Canadian military has identified three soldiers based at CFB Gagetown who were killed Saturday when their armoured vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device in southern Afghanistan.

Cpl. Thomas James Hamilton, Pte. John Michael Roy Curwin and Pte. Justin Peter Jones, based at CFB Gagetown in New Brunswick, were killed around 9 a.m. local time as they were responding to reports people were planting a suspicious object west of Kandahar city, Brig.-Gen. Denis Thompson told reporters in Kandahar Airfield.

Another soldier was injured and was transported to the hospital at the base, where he is in fair condition. The injured soldier's name was not released.

The three were members of Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, said Thompson, the commander of Task Force Kandahar.

Hamilton was on his third tour in Afghanistan, while Jones was originally from Newfoundland, Thompson said. Two of the men were parents — Curwin the father of three children, Hamilton the father of a daughter, Annabella.

"I would like to extend my personal condolences to the families and friends for these men and I look to all Canadians during this Christmas season to hold their memories dear," Thompson said.

"We share this moment of grief together today and think of these young men who were so full of life and full of promise."

Canada has now lost 103 soldiers and one diplomat since the military mission began six years ago.

The blast occurred in an area that until this summer was largely free of insurgent activity, the CBC's David Common reported Saturday from Kandahar.

"It’s an area that Canadian soldiers know very well, having been in that area repeatedly certainly over the past few days but, of course, over the past few months," he said.

The Canadian military has been using new technology in recent months — including spy drones and X-rays of entire roads —  in its attempt to prevent IED attacks, as well as acting on more tipoffs from Afghan citizens who see something out of the ordinary, Common said.

The recent attacks against Canadian troops in Kandahar province have come during the harsh Afghan winter, when Taliban fighters traditionally have gone back to Pakistan to regroup.

"There continues to be a presence, certainly of the IED bomb-making factories — they have not let up," Common said.

Soldier tried to 'make this world a better place'

Cpl. Mark Robert McLaren, based in Petawawa, Ont., was killed in Afghanistan on Dec. 5 along with two other Canadian soldiers. ((DND))
News of the latest deaths came as about 1,000 people gathered Saturday in a Peterborough, Ont., armoury for a military funeral for Cpl. Mark McLaren, one of three Canadian soldiers killed last week in Afghanistan on the same stretch of road.

McLaren, a member of the 1st Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, based at CFB Petawawa in eastern Ontario, died on Dec. 5 alongside Pte. Demetrios Diplaros and Warrant Officer Robert Wilson when their vehicle struck an improvised explosive device. 

His brother, Miles McLaren, said his death should serve as inspiration to those continuing to serve in the Afghan mission.

"I hope some Canadian boys — especially the ones overseas —  they do him proud," McLaren said outside the armoury.

"Because somebody has to make this world a better place, and [now] my brother's not here to do it. …This is Canada, and he did it for us, and he did it for the whole world."

Diplaros, 25, was buried Friday in Toronto, while the funeral for Wilson, 38, will take place Monday at CFB Petawawa.

With files from the Canadian Press

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