Military identifies two dead
The Canadian military has released the names of two soldiers killed in an insurgent ambush on Saturday. They have been identified as Sgt. Darcy Tedford and Pte. Blake Williamson.
Both men were members of the 1st Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment based at eastern Ontario's CFB Petawawa. Their ages and hometowns have not yet been released. Three soldiers who served with the two told The Canadian Press that they have been instructed to not speak publicly for at least a day. The soldiers were guarding a Canadian road construction project west of Kandahar city when they were attacked. They were killed when a rocket-propelled grenade exploded over their heads as they were outside their armoured vehicles.
The men were honoured in a ramp ceremony at Kandahar airfield Sunday before their remains were loaded on a military plane for their final journey home. Most ramp ceremonies have been held at dawn, but this one in the pre-dawn darkness. Military officials are worried that holding such ceremonies at the same time could lead to a mortar or rocket attack by insurgents, CTV News' Paul Workman told Newsnet on Sunday. Two other Canadian soldiers were wounded in the fatal attack. One has been released from the base's hospital and the other is described as being in good condition.
The soldiers were near Pashmul, about 25 kilometres west of Kandahar, when the attack occurred, said Workman. It's been the site of a number of attacks in the last week ... In fact, about six Canadian soldiers have been killed in that region protecting this road area where the construction is being done," Workman told CTV Newsnet. The road meant is to serve as a safer liaison between the volatile Panjwaii district and Kandahar-bound Highway 1. The Panjwaii district is Taliban heartland, and the Canadian military feels the road is significant because it will end the area's isolation, which accounts for the Taliban's resistance. However, despite a recent major military offensive in the area, Operation Medusa, that officers declared a success, some soldiers are saying there aren't enough of them to keep the insurgents out. "We're hearing from regular soldiers on the ground ... that they don't have enough soldiers to get in behind the Taliban, to patrol these areas in a more thorough way," Workman said.
During an appearance on CTV's Question Period on Sunday, Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay offered his condolences to the men's families and loved ones. He pointed out that the soldiers were involved in a reconstruction project, and said their deaths illustrate the fact that development can't take place in Afghanistan without a strong military presence. "It puts to a lie any suggestion that we can just do development or refocus the mission solely on development. The provincial reconstruction teams are doing that, while the military ... efforts to put the Taliban resistance down, is happening simultaneously," MacKay said. "You can't have the development without the security perimeter. You can't have the development until there is really stability in that region." MacKay also said the rising Canadian death toll -- 42 soldiers and one diplomat have died since 2002 -- illustrates the need for more nations to help with the "heavy lifting" in the south of Afghanistan.
On Oct. 3, Sgt. Craig Paul Gillam and Cpl. Robert Thomas James Mitchell were killed during a similar attack in the same area, by insurgents armed with rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office issued a statement of condolence. An excerpt:
"Sergeant Darcy Tedford and Private Blake Williamson were killed on October 14 when their unit was attacked by insurgents near the new roadway project in the Panjwayi area of Afghanistan. This road is being built by the Canadian Provincial Reconstruction Team and other Canadian units in partnership with Afghan officials, and is part of the ongoing development and reconstruction process that Canada is engaged in. "It is with courage and heroism that Sergeant Darcy Tedford and Private Blake Williamson have sacrificed their life to bring stability, democracy and peace in Afghanistan. "Three Canadian soldiers were also injured in the same incident. I know the prayers and thoughts of all Canadians are with their family and friends during this sad and difficult time.