Canadian soldier, 23, dies in IED blast in southern Afghanistan
Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, September 17, 2009 8:55PM EDT
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - The ever-present perils of the Panjwaii claimed the life of another young Canadian soldier Thursday when his armoured vehicle struck a roadside bomb while returning from a mission to root out Taliban command centres and weapons caches.
Pte. Jonathan Couturier, 23, a member of 2nd Battalion, Royal 22e Regiment, based in Valcartier, Que., was killed when his vehicle detonated an improvised explosive device some 25 kilometres southwest of Kandahar city.
The tragedy makes Couturier the 131st Canadian soldier to die as part of the Afghan mission since it began in 2002. Eleven others who suffered minor injuries in the blast were treated at the Role 3 Hospital at Kandahar Airfield and have since returned to duty.
"At the time of his death, Jonathan was returning from an operation designed to protect the population by removing insurgent command and control networks in the Panjwaii district," said Brig. Gen. Jonathan Vance, the commander of Task Force Kandahar.
"This meant capturing weapons and IED caches and preventing the movement of insurgents and weaponry into areas where innocent civilians might be harmed."
In a news conference at CFB Valcartier on Thursday, Col. Jean-Marc Lanthier said the entire military community was in mourning.
Lanthier, Commander 5 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group, said the military was grieving along with the soldier's parents Celine and Yvan, brother Nicolas and spouse Andreanne.
"The determination of his brothers-in-arms is reinforced by this ordeal, to ensure that his sacrifice will not be in vain," Lanthier said.
Couturier was born in Loretteville, near Quebec City. He had been with the Canadian Forces since March 2006.
Lanthier, standing with two fellow grim-faced soldiers as the sun began to set at the base near Quebec City, said Couturier's brothers and sisters-in-arms would not forget his sacrifice.
"Jonathan chose a life in the military and courageously served his country," Lanthier said.
"We are very proud of him."
Despite the coalition's best efforts, the Panjwaii district -- the birthplace of the Taliban -- remains something of a safe harbour for insurgents, with mud-walled compounds, grape orchards and vast marijuana and poppy fields that offer excellent enemy refuge.
It's also been a scourge this past month for the storied Royal 22e Regiment, also known as the Van Doos.
On Sept. 6, Maj. Yannick Pepin, 36, of Victoriaville, Que., and Cpl. Jean-Francois Drouin, 31, born in Quebec City, were killed in roadside bomb blast southwest of Kandahar city. Their compatriot, Pte. Patrick Lormand, 21, died Sunday in roughly the same area.@
Vance described Couturier as the "little brother" of certain members of his section, a soldier who never lost his ability to communicate his sense of humour, even at the most stressful of moments.
"He never missed an occasion to talk about his passions -- hockey, his (Ford) Mustang and last but not least the love of his life -- Andreanne," Vance said.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a statement offering condolences.
"On behalf of all Canadians and on behalf of the Government of Canada, I extend our support, our thoughts and our prayers to you during this difficult time."
He is the 13th soldier to die during the current rotation, and many of those have lost their lives to IEDs, the preferred weapon of the Taliban and an insidious torment to the efforts of both Canadian and NATO soldiers.
Some 72 of the 131 Canadian soldiers killed as part of the mission have died at the hands of an IED, which in Afghanistan are typically crudely fashioned, inexpensive devices made from ancient ordnance and household bits and pieces.
Since April 2007, 63 of the 86 Canadian deaths in Afghanistan were the result of improvised explosive devices.
"These types of operations were an important part of the security that Jonathan and his comrades were providing in Kandahar province," Vance said of Couturier's mission.
"Without these efforts, more IEDs would be emplaced, civilians would feel more threatened and more innocent lives would be lost."
Canada wasn't the only NATO country to suffer a loss Thursday.
At least six Italian soldiers and 10 civilians were killed when suicide bombers struck a military convoy in the Afghan capital of Kabul.