A Canadian special forces soldier has died in Iraq, the first life lost in this country's military deployment to fight Islamic State extremists.
Sergeant Andrew Joseph Doiron was killed Friday, March 6 in what the Canadian Armed Forces are calling a friendly-fire incident.
Three other Canadian soldiers were injured and receiving medical care. The Forces have not divulged the extent of their injuries except to say they're in "stable condition."
The military says the shots that killed Sgt. Doiron came from the Kurdish fighters whom Canadians have been assigned to train in northern Iraq.
This first Canadian death in Iraq, during what the Harper government insists is a non-combat mission, will weigh heavily on the Conservatives as they make plans to extend a deployment that is up for renewal at the end of March.
"Sergeant Doiron was killed while conducting advise and assist operations in Iraq when he and other members of the Special Operations Forces were mistakenly engaged by Iraqi Kurdish forces following their return to an observation post behind the front lines," Defence Minister Jason Kenney said in a statement.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered condolences to Sgt. Doiron's family, friends and colleagues as he saluted the fallen soldier.
"Sergeant Doiron lost his life in the line of duty. We will honour and remember his service to Canada," the prime minister said in a statement.
"This tragic incident reminds us of the very real risks that our brave men and women in uniform assume on our behalf to defend the freedoms that we cherish," Mr. Harper said in a statement.
He wished the injured soldiers a speedy recovery and said his government remains resolved to stay in Iraq.
"Almost daily we see new evidence of the violent threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant," the prime minister said.
"More than ever, it is imperative that we, along with the more than sixty countries in the coalition, continue the campaign to halt ISIL's spread and reduce its capacity to carry out terrorist attacks abroad and here in Canada."
Sgt. Doiron was with the Canadian Special Operations Regiment and based at CFB Petawawa, Ontario.
The special forces, roughly 69 of them, were sent to help training Kurdish fighters last September in a mission that was billed as non-combat and one where the elite troops would work far behind the front lines.
But it was revealed in late January that the troops had been accompanying their charges to the largely static forward outposts, and they had been involved in three firefights with extremists.
And they were even guiding coalition airstrikes by "painting" extremist positions with for pointers for the laser-guided bombs.
From the beginning, Harper has acknowledged the danger.
"We don't think the risks are enormous but the risks are very real," the prime minister said in Newport, Wales, on the day he announced the deployment.
This military advisory mission is one of two Canadian deployments to Iraq which form Operation Impact.
More than 600 Canadian Armed Forces personnel are in Kuwait supporting an aerial combat mission that includes six CF-18 fighters bombing Islamic Forces targets in Iraq as well as two surveillance planes and a flying refueling tanker.
The Conservatives used their Commons majority last fall to pass a motion endorsing Operation Impact for a six month period that concludes at the end of March
The government has repeatedly signaled it wants to remain in the fight against Islamic State forces, a military commitment that Canadians to date have strongly supported.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau mourned Sgt. Doiron's death and thanked the injured troops for their service.
"On behalf of the Liberal Party of Canada, I offer my sincere condolences to the entire Canadian Armed Forces family at this very sad time," Mr. Trudeau said in a statement.
With files from the Canadian Press