Friday, May 14, 2010

Canadian Soldier Killed near Kandahar City

A Canadian soldier who was two days away from finishing his tour in Afghanistan has been killed by an improvised explosive device while on foot patrol southwest of Kandahar city.

Pte. Kevin McKay, 24, was born in Richmond Hill, Ont. He was a member of the 1st Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, based in Edmonton.

McKay was killed around 8 p.m. local time Thursday while on patrol near the village of Nakhonay in the Panjwai District, about 15 kilometres southwest of Kandahar city, military officials said.

Until recently, Taliban insurgents walked the streets in the community openly and armed, CBC journalist Darrow MacIntyre reported. But over the past several months, Canadian soldiers — including McKay — have established a strong presence in the area, driving most of the Taliban out of the area.

Despite the progress, the area is riddled with roadside bombs, and Canadian soldiers find them on an almost daily basis, MacIntyre said.

"His platoon brothers and friends will remember Kevin, better known as Mickey to his buddies, as a dependable and generous man with a quick wit and great sense of humour, which was exemplified by his awesome moustache," said Col. Simon Hetherington, deputy commander of Task Force Kandahar.

"He was a highly skilled soldier who loved his job and whose positive outlook spread to all those around him."

McKay's death brings to 144 the number of Canadian Forces members who have died in the Afghan mission since it began in 2002.

In a statement issued Friday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said McKay served the country valiantly, and "deserves the gratitude and respect of his nation.”

"There are risks to our mission, but the brave men and women of the Canadian Forces are showing leadership, alongside our international partners, in standing up for something that is just: helping the Afghan people achieve peace and stability and rebuild their country and its institutions," Harper said.

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