Mourning, And Investigating

Members of the Third Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry and their American counterparts attend a memorial service for four fallen Canadian soldiers at the Kandahar Airport in Afghanistan on Tuesday April 23, 2002. The four soldiers were accidently killed by friendly fire in a bombing incident on Thursday while conducting a live fire excercise at night. AP/CP

The Pentagon is keeping its word on making sure that the Canadians have a full role in the investigation into the bomb mistake that killed four Canadian soldiers last Thursday.

Brigadier-General Mark Dumais of the Canadian military will co-chair the U-S military's investigation into how a U.S. fighter pilot wound up bombing Canadian troops, thinking he was acting in self-defense.

The Pentagon is expected to announce later today the name of the American officer who will work with Dumais on the probe of the bombing, which happened during training exercises in Afghanistan.

Both U.S. and Canadian troops gathered at Kandahar Air Base yesterday for a memorial service for the soldiers who were killed.

In Canada, the nation is in mourning after what is its first military casualties since the Korean War. One of the soldiers was buried yesterday, in a service broadcast nationwide; another funeral is being held today.

The return of the six Canadian troops wounded in the same incident was also a solemn moment yesterday. About 30 relatives stood on the tarmac at Edmonton, to welcome the soldiers as they arrived.

Earlier yesterday, U.S. military spokesman Maj. Bryan Hilferty revealed that three mortar rounds were fired apparently in the direction of U.S. troops in Gardez, Afghanistan.

There were no injuries. Hilferty declines to say whether U.S. forces returned fire, but does say the troops went "out in that vicinity ... and had an encounter with people there."

"We are continuing to investigate but it's hard to tell in this country if that means they're attacking us," said Hilferty. "Three mortar rounds in this country is a not a particularly big deal."

On April 9, three Afghans were killed in a grenade attack on a pro-U.S. Afghan military patrol near Gardez. Monday's incident took place in the eastern province of Paktia, where the last major battles against the Taliban and al Qaeda fighters were fought in March during Operation Anaconda - the largest U.S.-led ground offensive in Afghanistan.

Since then, U.S., British and Afghan troops have continued to search caves and other terrorist hide-outs in the region, gathering weapons, documents and other materials left behind.

Hilferty said coalition forces on Monday had discovered several more weapons caches in central Afghanistan, each with about a hundred rockets.

He would not say where the rockets were found but commented that weapons were hidden all over the country starting 20 years ago during the war against the Soviets.

Also yesterday, international peacekeepers said 10 Afghans were brought to hospitals after walking into a minefield near Kandahar.

Hilferty also says coalition troops Monday "detained three different individuals in two different portions of the country."

U.S.-led forces are holding about 300 detainees in Afghanistan, most of them in the southern city of Kandahar.

  • Francie Grace

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