Fri, Apr 13, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Canadians die in blast in Afghanistan

AP , KABUL

A bomb explosion in southern Afghanistan killed two Canadian soldiers and injured three others, as NATO military leaders met in Canada to ask for more resources for their fight in the volatile south, military officials said yesterday.

Colonel Mike Cessford, deputy commander of the Canadian contingent in Afghanistan, said the blast that killed Canadians happened on Wednesday but did not disclose the exact location. Most of the Canadian troops serving in the NATO-led force in Afghanistan are based in the volatile southern province of Kandahar.

The blast occurred three days after six Canadian troops were killed by a roadside bomb, also in the south. Those deaths were the single worst combat loss for Canada in Afghanistan, who have lost 53 soldiers and one diplomat in the country since deploying to the country, according to the Canadian military.

There are some 2,500 Canadian troops in Afghanistan in the 36,000-strong NATO force.

As NATO pushes forward with its biggest ever anti-Taliban offensive in southern Afghanistan, the US Defense Secretary Robert Gates was in Canada yesterday to press allies to contribute additional forces in Afghanistan for that fight.

Gates was to meet with military leaders from Britain, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, Denmark and Romania -- all partners in southern Afghanistan.

NATO and the US have made repeated calls for additional resources from allies, but have met resistance from some, including the French and Germans, who questioned the wisdom of sending more troops to Afghanistan.

Each year Taliban fighters have stepped up their attacks as the spring thaw began, but this year Gates said NATO should take the offensive and bring the fight first to the militants.

The initial phase of the assault began last month with Operation Achilles -- sending more than 5,500 NATO and Afghan troops into opium-producing Helmand province to battle hardcore Taliban insurgents.

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