U.S. warplanes accidentally fired on Canadian soldiers, killing one and injuring more than 30 others during a NATO anti-Taliban effort in Panjwaii district west of Kandahar, which was the scene of intense fighting all weekend as part of a mission dubbed Operation Medusa.
The five deaths are the most sustained by Canada in a 24-hour period since troops were stationed in Afghanistan in 2002. Thirty-three Canadians have been killed in the country since 2002, including 32 soldiers and a diplomat.
The fatal accident happened around 5:30am when two American A-10 Warthogs flew in to support troops trying to win a Taliban stronghold along the Arghandab River, but accidentally fired on the Canadians.
Private Mark Graham died in the attack. Graham was based in Petawawa and was a member of Canada’s Four-by-400 relay team at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992.
Officials said that most of the other injuries suffered in the accidental attack were minor and an investigation into the incident is underway.
“It would appear right now at this stage of the game that five soldiers will be evacuated back for further treatment beyond our local capability and the remainder of the wounded are expected to return to duty shortly,” said Brig.-Gen. David Fraser, the Canadian in charge of NATO forces in southern Afghanistan.
“We do have procedures, we do have communications, we do have training and tactics and techniques and procedures to mitigate the risk but we can’t reduce those risks to zero.”
On April 17, 2002 four Canadian troops were killed when an American fighter plane accidentally fired on them during a training exercise. Eight other Canadians were wounded.
Many of the approximately 2,200 Canadian troops currently serving in Afghanistan are involved in Operation Medusa, which is an effort aimed at clearing the Taliban out of the volatile Panjwaii district and handing power to the Afghan government.
On Sunday, Sgt. Shane Stachnik, Warrant Officer Frank Robert Mellish and Warrant Officer Richard Francis Nolan, all based at CFB Petawawa, Ont., and one other soldier whose name was withheld at the request of his family, were killed in fighting in Panjwaii district. (See pictures below)
Despite the deaths, NATO maintains the current operation has been a success so far and claims that up to 200 Taliban fighters have been killed and 80 captured.
But the five deaths have rekindled debate on Canada’s role in Afghanistan. On Sunday, NDP Leader Jack Layton called for the withdrawal of Canuck troops by February, but Prime Minister Stephen Harper didn’t address the issue of a withdrawal in a recent statement in which he offered his condolences to the fallen soldiers’ families.
“What we as Canadians need to do is consider whether this is indeed the right mission for Canada, going forward. Our view is that it is the wrong mission for Canada,” Layton said.
His comments infuriated Conservative MP Laurie Hawn who said the NDP leader’s remarks made him “sick to my stomach.”
Sept. 4 — Private Mark Graham is killed when NATO aircraft accidentally strafe Canadian soldiers in the Panjwaii district.
Sept. 3 — Sgt. Shane Stachnik, Warrant Officer Frank Robert Mellish and Warrant Officer Richard Francis Nolan, all based at CFB Petawawa, Ont., and one other soldier whose name was withheld at the request of his family, killed in fighting in Panjwaii district.
Aug. 22 — Cpl. David Braun killed in a suicide attack.
Aug. 11 — Cpl. Andrew Eykelenboom killed in suicide attack.
Aug. 9 — Master Cpl. Jeffrey Walsh killed by apparent accidental discharge of rifle.
Aug. 5 — Master Cpl. Raymond Arndt killed when his G-Wagon patrol vehicle collided with truck.
Aug. 3 — Cpl. Christopher Reid killed by roadside bomb. Sgt. Vaughan Ingram, Cpl. Bryce Keller and Pte. Kevin Dallaire killed in rocket-propelled grenade attack.
July 22 — Cpl. Francisco Gomez and Cpl. Jason Warren killed when car packed with explosives rammed their armoured vehicle.
July 9 — Cpl. Anthony Boneca killed in firefight.
May 17 — Capt. Nichola Goddard, an artillery officer, killed in Taliban ambush. She was first Canadian woman to be killed in action while serving in combat role.
April 22 — Cpl. Matthew Dinning, Bombardier Myles Mansell, Lieut. William Turner and Cpl. Randy Payne killed when their G-Wagon destroyed by roadside bomb.
March 29 — Pte. Robert Costall killed in firefight with Taliban.
March 2 — Cpl. Paul Davis and Master Cpl. Timothy Wilson killed when their armoured vehicle ran off road.
Jan. 15 — Glyn Berry, British-born Canadian diplomat, killed in suicide bombing.
Nov. 24 — Pte. Braun Woodfield killed when his armoured vehicle rolled over.
Jan. 27 — Cpl. Jamie Murphy killed in suicide bombing while on patrol.
Oct. 2 — Sgt. Robert Short and Cpl. Robbie Beerenfenger killed in roadside bombing.
April 17 — Sgt. Marc Leger, Cpl. Ainsworth Dyer, Pte. Richard Green and Pte. Nathan Smith killed when U.S. F-16 fighter mistakenly bombed Canadians.