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PostPosted: Wed Sep 26, 2007 4:14 am    Post subject: Canadian soldier killed, 5 wounded in clashes with Taliban Reply with quote


KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - Before boarding a military flight to Afghanistan last month, Cpl. Nathan Hornburg told a newspaper in his hometown that danger would not deter him. "It's more of an argument we should be there - we know it's a mess and that's why we're there," he told the Calgary Sun in July.

On Monday, Hornburg became the 71st Canadian soldier to die in Afghanistan.

Hundreds of coalition troops assembled early Wednesday morning on the tarmac to pay solemn tribute to Hornburg as his coffin was taken aboard a plane bound for Canada.

The 24-year-old mechanic with the King's Own Calgary Regiment was killed in a mortar attack during a counter-insurgency operation in one of the most dangerous districts in Afghanistan.

A member of a tank squadron, Hornburg was repairing the track on a Leopard 2 tank when he was killed by the blast from a mortar strike around 4:30 p.m. local time during Operation Sadiq Sarbaaz - or Operation Honest Soldier.

"Cpl. Hornburg had to dismount in order to put back a track on a Leopard tank and it's at this moment that the incident happened, that there was mortar shell attack," Brig-Gen. Guy Laroche, Canada's top soldier in Afghanistan, told reporters at Kandahar Airfield on Tuesday.

Another soldier was wounded in the mortar attack.

In an ensuing firefight, a rocket-propelled grenade launched by insurgents wounded three more infantry soldiers. All four were evacuated, by air and by road, to Kandahar Airfield for treatment in hospital.

"The injuries of our wounded are not life threatening," Laroche said.

Separately, a Canadian soldier was seriously wounded Tuesday when insurgents ambushed a joint patrol with the Afghan National Police. The soldier, whose name was not released, is part of the new Police Operational Mentoring Liaison Team.

The joint patrol from the Pashmul police substation in the Zhari district was ambushed with small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades around 11 a.m. local time.

The soldier was evacuated by helicopter, first to Kandahar Airfield and then to a military hospital at Camp Bastion, in Helmand province, where he is receiving specialist care. Information on the soldier's condition was not immediately available.

At Kandahar Airfield, Laroche said the tank that needed repairs in the Monday incident was not hit by any roadside bomb; the track had come off on its own.

"It happens ... The terrain down there is very rough and that's something that we see on a regular basis, unfortunately," the commander said.

Laroche offered his condolences to the Hornburg family.

"These incidents are extremely difficult and trying times for the families, friends and colleagues of Cpl. Hornburg," Laroche said. "There is no way to comfort those who are grieving today except to say that Cpl. Hornburg was involved in a mission he believed in."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a point of mentioning Canada's latest loss on the battlefield during a speech in New York.

Canada is in Afghanistan "because we believe it is noble and necessary," Harper said, "a cause completely consistent with our country's proud history of supporting international action to fight oppression and brutality, and to assist our fellow human beings."

"Since 2005 Canadian troops have been in one of the most violent regions in Afghanistan: the southern portion of Kandahar. And there has been a significant price - as we were reminded yesterday with the death of a Canadian soldier" and injuries to other soldiers, Harper said.

Later in a statement, Harper said: "Canadians mourn the loss of Corporal Nathan Hornburg. Demonstrating courage and commitment, he gave his life serving his country and working to ensure a brighter future for the Afghan people."

Harper also expressed sympathies to the wounded soldiers.

Last month, Canadian troops began a push into the dangerous Zhari district of Kandahar province, the birthplace of the Taliban movement.

They have now moved back into the Panjwaii district to the south, another hotbed of insurgent activity and one that Canadians fought and died for last fall in Operation Medusa.

Medusa was the largest offensive undertaken since the Taliban were ousted in the U.S.-led invasion of 2001 and the largest combat operation by Canadian troops since the Korean War.

But much of that ground was lost over the summer during the changeover of Canadian troops when Afghan national security forces were left to fend off insurgents on their own.

Five Canadian soldiers have died since then.

Laroche made no apology for the fact Canadians are fighting for control of the same areas again.

"A counter-insurgency is difficult," he said.

"It's difficult by the fact that you will never be able, essentially, to defeat completely the enemy so you have to find ways to reduce the threat - that's what we're doing - and also to give a chance to development and reconstruction - and that's what we've been doing."

Operation Sadiq Sarbaaz was aimed at pushing insurgents out of the Panjwaii region and establishing a police substation for Afghan National Police.

There were a few other engagements with insurgents during the day prior to the mortar attack that killed Hornburg.

Military officials said some rebels were killed but, as is customary, they did not release a death toll.

Hornburg said in his July interview that being up against a foe willing to die to kill Canadians was a sobering thought, but also a motivating one.

"It just makes me more dedicated to do my job, so they don't kill you," he said.

Seventy-one Canadian soldiers and one diplomat have now died since Ottawa began its military mission in Afghanistan in 2002.

There have been 24 combat deaths so far this year, the most recent previously coming on Aug. 22.

Master Warrant Officer Mario Mercier of the Royal 22nd Regiment and Master Cpl. Christian Duchesne, of the 5th Field Ambulance unit, both based in Valcartier, Que., were killed when their light armoured vehicle was struck by roadside bomb west of Kandahar city.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 26, 2007 7:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

RIP, Corporal Hornburg. We will not forget.
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Canadian soldier killed, 5 wounded in clashes with Taliban

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