Soldiers wounded as Canada launches new facility in Afghanistan

A firefight in southern Kandahar left six Canadian soldiers with minor injuries on Friday.

A firefight in southern Kandahar left six Canadian soldiers with minor injuries on Friday.

The battle between soldiers and insurgents erupted in Zhari district west of Kandahar city. Local fighters attacked the Canadian soldiers after the vehicle they were riding in struck an improvised explosive device, forcing the soldiers on to the road.

A helicopter transported the injured to a hospital at Kandahar Airfield, where the soldiers were treated for minor injuries and released.

The skirmish occurred the same day Canada launched a new Joint District Co-ordination Centre in Zhari district, a multi-purpose facility meant to connect coalition troops, Afghan security forces and local citizens.

The battle between Canadian troops and insurgents could be heard in the distance during the official opening for the centre, which has been operating for about six months. Two Canadian civilian police officers are already mentoring Zhari's Afghan police chief there, according to Canada's top civilian official in Kandahar, Elissa Golberg.

"We have people coming out here on a periodic basis but starting late August, early September, we'll have a political and development officer out here," Golberg said.

While members of the Canadian army will work onsite with Afghan soldiers, the facility also serves as a 911 call centre similar to those operating in Canada. An interpreter will relay messages called in by local residents to Canadian troops, who will then send Afghan or coalition forces to investigate.

The centre already receives about 15 calls a day. A local official noted that a tip from a citizen on Wednesday enabled security forces to disable an IED before it exploded.

Those seeking compensation from Canadian troops for property damage or the accidental death of an innocent civilian at the hands of Canadian soldiers can lodge their applications at the centre as well.

With files from the Canadian Press