Canadian soldier dies in firefight

CanWest News Service
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KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan A Canadian officer leading his troops to safety after a foot patrol came under attack Tuesday was killed by enemy small arms fire, the deputy commander of Joint Task Force Afghanistan told reporters in Kandahar.

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan A Canadian officer leading his troops to safety after a foot patrol came under attack Tuesday was killed by enemy small arms fire, the deputy commander of Joint Task Force Afghanistan told reporters in Kandahar.

Capt. Richard Steve Leary, a platoon commander with the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricias Canadian Light Infantry, based at CFB Shilo in Manitoba, died four weeks to the day after another Canadian soldier was shot and killed while on a similar foot patrol in the same area rife with Taliban insurgent activity west of Kandahar City.

The soldiers returned fire, and under Capt. Learys leadership, repositioned, when he was struck, said Col. Jamie Cade, deputy-commander, Joint Task Force Afghanistan.

On behalf of the entire task force, I would like to extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Capt. Leary, he said.

Capt. Leary was what we in uniform are expected to be Capt. Leary was a soldier and Capt. Leary was a leader.

The battle death of a platoon leader hits soldiers under his command hard, said task force spokesman Maj. Jay Janzen.

Its a very difficult time, and when you lose a leader that is effective as Capt. Leary, as personable, its difficult, he said.

Learys body is expected to be returned to Canada later this week from Kandahar Airfield, where most of the 2,500 Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan are based and where the maple leaf flags are flying at half-mast.

Canadian soldiers and Afghan security forces were on a joint foot patrol in the volatile Panjwaii District, where Canadians have frequently come under attack, when they drew small arms fire early Tuesday morning, sparking a prolonged engagement that continued after Leary was shot about 9:30 a.m. local time.

According to Cade, close air support was called in and the enemy was defeated. Leary, from Brantford, Ont., was evacuated by helicopter to the Role 3 multi-national medical facility at Kandahar Airfield, but was pronounced dead.

Every death or injury is deeply painful to us, but it is a risk that we as members of the Armed Forces understand and assume as we work to bring peace and stability to a country torn apart by decades of war, said Cade.

Afghan national security forces and the Canadian Task Force continue to maintain the initiative, he added.

The captains death brings Canadas toll in Afghanistan to 84 soldiers and one diplomat since the mission began in early 2002.

Its dangerous business, theres no question about that. But if were not out there doing our jobs, well never be successful, said Janzen.

Tuesdays death came a day after two separate attacks on Canadian soldiers a small arms assault and an improvised explosive device (IED) blast targeting another foot patrol left four wounded, including two who had to be airlifted to a military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, one in serious condition.

Organizations: Princess Patricias Canadian Light Infantry, Taliban

Geographic location: Afghanistan, Kandahar, Manitoba Canada Panjwaii District Brantford Landstuhl Germany

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