Canadian Soldier Killed by Roadside Bomb

A Canadian soldier killed at an undisclosed location southwest of Kandahar city was an "utterly fearless" corporal who volunteered for another tour in Afghanistan, his commander says.

An improvised mine exploded underneath Corporal James Hayward Arnal during a foot patrol shortly before midnight on Friday. The blast also injured another soldier, who is expected to return to work.

Other soldiers tried to save Corporal Arnal with emergency medical treatment but his injuries were too severe.

"Though Jim had only been serving in the Canadian Forces for four years, this was his second tour in Afghanistan," Brigadier-General Denis Thompson told reporters at Kandahar Airfield. "Platoon mates from his previous rotation and his current fire team partner describe him as professional, dependable and utterly fearless under enemy fire."

The Canadian military has stopped revealing the exact location of its soldiers' deaths in recent months, as the latest fighting season has killed soldiers in roughly the same areas where they have been dying for the last two years. The military says it has discontinued giving locations for reasons of operational security.

"We're certainly making progress," Brig-Gen. Thompson said. "But these things come in peaks and valleys."

The commander did not repeat the claim made last week by General Walter Natynczyk, Chief of the Defence Staff, that the violence in Kandahar has not significantly increased. But he gave a lengthy response to growing concerns among U.S. and other allies that Kandahar's security has deteriorated.

"Each time we lose a soldier, it causes us to reflect on why we are in Afghanistan, and whether or not our presence here is making a difference," Brig-Gen. Thompson said.

Canadian soldiers have seen improvements in the Afghan National Army and feel proud of the mission, he said.

"Of course, soldiers are also not afraid to talk about the challenges faced here in Afghanistan," Brig-Gen. Thompson added. "Let there be no doubt, we do have our work cut out for us in Kandahar province as we work with our Afghan partners to bring peace and stability to the area."

He added: "We are convinced we will succeed."

A total of 88 Canadian soldiers and one diplomat have died in the Afghan mission. Fourteen have been killed so far this year, meaning the death rate is lower than last year but higher than in 2006.

While the Canadians have suffered fewer casualties this year, more of their allies are dying than ever before. A total of 146 foreign soldiers have died in the Afghan mission so far this year, according to icasualties.org, meaning the death rate is roughly 15 per cent higher than last year. Similar increases have happened every year since the Taliban's major resurgence started in 2005.

Panjwai district, where Corporal Arnal was working before his death, has seen pro-government forces recently pushing into Taliban strongholds. On the same evening of the explosion that killed him, locals reported air strikes that killed an elderly man and a woman near the village of Zala Khan, about 10 kilometres south of Kandahar's city limits.

The Afghan police also established new outposts on a road leading into that area in the last few days. Often called the Nakhonay triangle, the cluster of villages on the eastern edge of Panjwai district still serves as a notorious hideout for Taliban fighters, with some villagers helping the insurgents get food and medical help.

Corporal Arnal was involved in a Canadian operation against the makers of home-made landmines, or improvised explosive devices, at the time of his death, Brig-Gen. Thompson said.

"We're working hard on several levels, including the patrol that Corporal Arnal was on, to flush out the IED makers," he said.

The Canadian commander said there has been a local increase in the number of IED attacks, though he added that it may subside in the coming weeks.

Another IED blast in Zhari district killed four police and injured four others on Saturday morning, according to Ustad Abdul Halim, a security advisor to the provincial governor.

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