The first Canadian military casualty since August came amid a concerted push by beefed-up NATO forces during the past three months to wrest control from Taliban insurgents.
Corporal Steve Martin was on foot patrol when an improvised explosive device exploded Saturday near the site of a new graveled roadway that the U.S.-led coalition is building in the Panjwai district of Kandahar province.
His company had moved into Panjwai district last month as coalition troops launched a fresh offensive against Taliban strongholds in the south in advance of the projected Canadian withdrawal from the province next summer. It's part of one of the last combat missions for Canadian troops, who have taken a secondary role in Kandahar since the arrival of more U.S. soldiers, and are moving to a training role elsewhere in Afghanistan after 2011.
"We will not forget the sacrifice of this soldier as we continue to bring security and hope to the people of Kandahar province," said Brigadier-General Dean Milner, the commander of Canadian troops in Afghanistan.
A series of bombings and Taliban attacks across the country also hit Afghan troops and officials over the past two days and left a number of civilians, including children, dead or wounded.
At least six Afghan soldiers and police officers were killed when suicide bombers shot their way into an army recruitment office in the centre of the northern city of Kunduz on Sunday. In a separate incident, suicide attackers hit an army bus on the outskirts of Kabul, killing five officers and wounding nine others, according to the Ministry of Defence. The Taliban claimed responsibility for both attacks.
A day earlier, in the same area where Canadian forces are deployed, a district governor narrowly escaped injury when an explosives-laden car tried to ram into his vehicle. The car veered into a group of civilians and killed two people, one of them a child.
The war in Afghanistan, now in its 10th year, has intensified over the past six months with the arrival of the last of the 30,000 extra U.S. troops ordered in by President Barack Obama last year.
The increased troop levels have in turn led to more fighting and the highest number of coalition casualties for any single period since the insurgency began. Across the country, the number of incidents increased by 58 per cent over last year, according to Indicium Consulting, a Kabul-based security-analysis company.
U.S. forces also conducted some 7,100 "special operations," including night raids targeting Taliban hideouts, weapons caches and bomb-making facilities, according to NATO officials. They said military operations overall killed more than 2,000 Taliban insurgents, and that 600 mid-level or senior commanders were killed or captured.
The monitoring group icasualties.org, which compiles statistics on coalition battlefield deaths, put the number of international troops killed so far this year at more than 700, with about two-thirds of them American. Afghan forces suffered even heavier losses, with the Ministry of Defence reporting before the deadly spate of attacks Sunday that 702 of its soldiers had been killed so far this year. Canadian Forces have lost 154 service personnel in Afghanistan.