World

Sophistication of deadly Taliban attack concerning: Natynczyk

A Taliban attack that claimed the lives of three young Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan Wednesday is worrisome because of its sophisticated nature, Canada's top soldier says.

3 Canadians killed, 5 wounded

Defence Minister Peter MacKay (left) and Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Walter Natynczyk speak to reporters in Banff, Alta., about the death of three soldiers in Afghanistan on Wednesday. ((Bill Graveland/Canadian Press))
A Taliban attack that claimed the lives of three young Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan on Wednesday is worrisome because of its sophisticated nature, Canada's top soldier says.

Gen. Walter Natynczyk, chief of defence staff, was commenting just hours after Cpl. Andrew Grenon, Cpl. Mike Seggie and Pte. Chad Horn were killed in an insurgent assault on their armoured vehicle while they were on a security patrol in the Zhari district of the southern Kandahar province.

All three were members of the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry based in Shilo, Man., and were set to return to Canada as they neared the end of their six-month tour.

Natynczyk said he wasn't sure of all the details, but said it was different than the usual Taliban strategy of using roadside bombs.

"This attack is worrisome in the kind of sophistication of the attack," said Natynczyk.

"We've got great soldiers out there who again will react to this, have a look at it, learn from this and apply those lessons."

The Taliban have claimed that a remotely controlled land mine was used in the attack, said the CBC's Derek Stoffel on Thursday from Kandahar.

"So we are led to believe that there was an ambush after the Canadian soldiers were exiting their ... damaged vehicle and that is perhaps how the three Canadian soldiers were killed," he said.

Taliban stepping up assaults

The attack came in the first week of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a period that traditionally signalled a reduction in Taliban attacks, Stoffel said.

Attacks are not expected to subside during Ramadan this year, Natynczyk told CBC news.

Instead, there has been an increase in Taliban activity in the past few months, but it's unclear what seems to have triggered a change in the group's tactics, Natynczyk said.

Five Canadian soldiers lost their lives in August, making it the deadliest month of the year for Canadian forces in Afghanistan.

Also last month, 10 French soldiers were killed in a single Taliban ambush outside Kabul, while nine U.S. soldiers lost their lives after an attack in the northeastern Kunar province.

The attacks were among the deadliest levelled against international forces engaged in Afghanistan in more than three years.

"The security situation during this campaign season and the fighting season is tough and we are seeing sophisticated capabilities in terms of training proficiency of the Taliban, not only in our own region but also in the Regional Command East and in Helmand province as well," he said.

"But at the same time we're learning, we're adapting and trying to get ahead of the Taliban."

5 others wounded

Five other soldiers were wounded in the latest attack, one of them critically. Another is in serious condition, while two are in good condition with the last soldier returning to duty after being treated, officials said.

The soldiers who were killed gave their lives in "defence of a worthy mission," said Defence Minister Peter MacKay on Wednesday.

"The Taliban are insidious by their very nature — they kill their own civilians, they use women and children as shields, so intimidation is what they deal in daily," he said.

The deaths of the soldiers brings to 96 the number of Canadian soldiers killed since the mission in Afghanistan began in 2002.

The conflict in Afghanistan has also claimed the lives of 582 U.S. soldiers, 116 British soldiers and 156 soldiers from 19 other countries.

In another development, the deputy head of mission at the Canadian Embassy in Afghanistan has been promoted to ambassador in Kabul. Ron Hoffman, who joined Foreign Affairs in 1989, is a career diplomat  who has held posts in The Hague, Johannesburg, Beijing and London.

"He brings tremendous experience to his new post and will ensure that Canada continues to make an important contribution to helping rebuild the lives of millions of men, women and children throughout Afghanistan," Foreign Affairs Minister David Emerson said.

Hoffman replaces Arif Lalani, who is joining the Munk Centre for International Studies at the University of Toronto as a senior visiting fellow.

With files from the Canadian Press