A Canadian soldier was killed in Afghanistan Saturday as he participated in a major operation to locate bomb-making factories in Taliban territory.
Sapper Sean David Greenfield, 25, was killed when the armoured vehicle he was riding in struck an improvised explosive device in the Zhari district, west of Kandahar city.
"It is with a heavy heart that I announce that a Canadian soldier was killed today," Brig.-Gen. Denis Thompson, Canada's top military commander in Afghanistan, said in a statement.
Greenfield was killed at the tail end of a joint operation with American and British troops to root out the Taliban's bomb-making abilities.
"The mission in question was meant to go into a zone, the western part of Panjwaii and Zhari districts in order to go after specific Taliban compounds of interest, where we did find. . .bomb-making material and other weapons," Thompson said.
The incident occurred as hundreds of soldiers fanned out over 20 kilometres, looking for Taliban weapons caches.
The other soldiers in the vehicle were not hurt, Thompson said.
Greenfield was a member of 24 Field Engineer Squadron, 2 Combat Engineer Regiment based out of Petawawa, Ont., serving with the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment Battle Group.
Thompson described Greenfield as exceptionally fit and said the young soldier recently completed a combat diver's course. He added that Greenfield aspired to join JTF2, Canada's elite and secretive special forces team.
Greenfield was described as having a great sense of humour and someone who loved to sing and play guitar.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered his condolences to family, friends and comrades of Greenfield.
"We also wish a full and swift recovery to his four comrades who were injured in the same attack and thank them for their dedicated service," the prime minister's message said.
"The Canadian mission in Afghanistan is a difficult one, but the Canadian Forces are making a difference in the lives of the Afghan people by maintaining security and stability that will allow the country to rebuild and look to the future.
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff extended his "deepest sympathies to the loved ones of Sapper Greenfield and to the entire armed forces family.'
"Canadians owe a tremendous debt to the men and women of our Canadian Forces for their courage and sacrifice for our country," Ignatieff said in a statement. "Our thoughts are with them on this difficult day."
Gov.-Gen. Michaelle Jean said she was "overwhelmed" at the news of Greenfield's death.
"The bravery and determination with which Canadian soldiers conduct their work and face terror on a daily basis is truly astounding," she said in a statement.
"They are convinced of the importance of helping the Afghan people, of standing up to hatred, and of achieving security, which is an absolute necessity for reconstruction and human development in a country so filled with despair."
A deadly winter
The Taliban have kept up a deadly offensive throughout this winter, a new tactic. In previous winters the Taliban hid in the mountains to regroup in advance of fighting in the spring.
Eleven Canadian soldiers have been killed since December, all in roadside bomb attacks.
The Taliban claims the deaths are part of a new aggressive campaign aimed at coalition forces.
Canadian military officials have attributed the deaths to bad luck and have dismissed the Taliban's claims.
Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) continue to plague Canadian troops in Afghanistan. IEDs are responsible for more than half of all Canadian troop deaths in the country, which now total 108.
CTV's Steve Chao, reporting from Kandahar, said that the number of roadside bombs planted over the last year has doubled.
"They are using this technique more and more to try to slow down NATO troops," he told CTV Newsnet Saturday.
Chao said that the military claims that their techniques for finding roadside bombs have improved over the last few months.
Canadian soldiers have ramped up efforts to seek out IED materials in recent months.
In early January, Operation Shahi Tandar (Royal Thunder), a joint operation between Canadian, British and Afghan troops, seized detonators, wires and tubes, and other bomb-making materials.
Saturday's search yielded even more material that would be used to make IEDs.
"The engineers went in and found what seems to be a bit of a false wall," Platoon Commander Lieut. Aron Corey told reporters. "In behind that were some spools of wire, the same type of wire that's used in IEDs."
Thompson said that the weapon caches found Saturday were smaller than the ones they have found in the past.
"The size of the caches that were found ... (are) not as spectacular as previous finds, which is certainly an indication that we're whittling it down," he said.
"I can tell you that the intelligence we have leads us to certain areas. Tends to be the same areas; these people are creatures of habit. And when we go back, if we find that the stocks are lowered, then clearly they're having trouble re-supplying themselves."