Bodies of Afghan boy, Canadian soldier returned

Friday, August 25, 2006

The bodies of a Canadian soldier killed in a suicide bombing in Kandahar, Afghanistan has been returned to Canada, Wednesday, the same day that the remains of a child killed by Canadian troops in the aftermath of the car bomb was returned to his family.

The soldier was killed in a suicide car bombing outside a military base two hours before the shooting took place. The 10-year old Afghan boy was riding on the back of a motorcycle when he and a teenaged driver sped to the scene of the attack, crossing a security perimeter that had been set up.

The boy's death has angered Afghans in the area and military officials are concerned of a backlash from the incident.

The casket of Corporal David Braun, 27, was flown from Kandahar in a C-130 Hercules aircraft. He was the eighth Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan this August and the 27th Canadian killed in Afghanistan since troops were deployed there in early 2002. Three other soldiers were injured in the suicide attack on the NATO convoy but are reported to be in good condition.

Incident under scrutiny

The military's National Investigation Service is scrutinizing the shooting of the Afghan boys. According to a NATO statement: "Soldiers signalled the motorbike to stop and fired two warning shots...the rider and passenger were both hit and wounded by a single bullet." Officials say that the motorcycle was fired upon by troops who feared a second suicide attack was underway.

Colonel Fred Lewis, deputy commander of NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), denies that the shooting occurred because newly-arrived Canadian soldiers were inexperienced.

"I don't think so, I really don't think so," Lewis told The Canadian Press. "Initial impressions right now are the soldiers did what they had to do."

The victims were taken to medics and then flown to Kandahar Air Field Hospital where the ten year old died. The driver, 17, remains in serious but stable condition.

"We are very sad at what happened and we express our deep regret and condolences to the family and community," said Col. Arie Vermeij, deputy commander of ISAF's Regional Command South.

Residents angry

The father of the dead boy denounced Canada's military when approached by the Canadian Press for comment. Several women at the family home screamed, cried and shook their fists.

Military officials fear a backlash in response to the boy's death. In the aftermath of the shooting, angry Kandahar residents expressed support for the suicide bombers and their opposition to foreign troops remaining on Afghan soil.

"They're very angry about that, the shopkeepers, the bakery man, all the people that are living in this place," said a Kandahar resident who works for a non-governmental agency and who was at the scene.

"They're angry and they get upset and they get out of patience, and they said, 'Yeah, we support the suicide (bombers)'," he told the Toronto Star.

The bomb, aimed at the Canadian patrol, killed 21 Afghan civilians and wounded 13.

"We support them and the international community should leave Afghanistan. We want to build our country by ourselves," he quoted other residents as saying.

"They have been telling me that they had better leave, all the ISAF, the security forces, the peacekeepers, they have to leave our country," he said. "It's a very bad situation. It's dangerous and you can't trust anyone. The Canadian soldier had to do something but sometimes ... mistakes are made."