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The Globe and Mail

Canadian soldier killed in blast during training exercise

Cpl. Joshua Caleb Baker, 24, was killed during a training accident at a range northeast of Kandahar City .


A Canadian soldier died after an explosion during a training exercise at a weapons range near Kandahar City on Friday.

Corporal Joshua Caleb Baker, 24, died in the dinnertime blast, which also injured four other soldiers who are expected to recover.

While the cause of the blast is under investigation, insurgent activity has been ruled out. Several sources said it was a claymore mine that exploded during training, leading to Cpl. Baker's death. A Canadian Forces spokesperson declined to confirm or deny that Saturday evening.

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"This tragic incident occurred while Cpl. Baker was conducting continuing weapons training on a range. This type of training is normal for soldiers in theatre and essential in helping them to maintain high levels of expertise," Brigadier-General Daniel Ménard, Canada's top soldier in Afghanistan, said in a statement earlier in the day.

Cpl. Baker, an Edmonton native serving as a reservist with the Loyal Edmonton Regiment, was remembered in a ramp ceremony at Kandahar Air Field Saturday. Members of Cpl. Baker's regiment, some of them fighting back tears, carried his flag-covered casket onto the plane during the chilly 5 p.m. service, with hundreds of soldiers from each coalition country watching by.

"Joshua had a laugh rumoured to cure cancer. No matter where you were or how down you got his laugh would find your ears and bring a smile to your face," Brig.-Gen. Ménard said in the statement. "He loved being a soldier and the excellence he demonstrated moved him past being simply good at his job in the eyes of his fellow soldiers."

In a speech at the memorial, Padre Shaun Yaskiw remembered the reservist as an "extremely passionate" person who had an ability to make people smile.

"Josh loved to dance to his iPod. He would randomly show up to your room and start dancing to his music, and was not content until you were dancing right next to him, his smile egging you on," Padre Yaskiw said. "Josh was one in a million."

Cpl. Baker is the 140th soldier to die since the Canadian mission in Afghanistan began in 2002.

His death came as his fellow troops took part in a massive NATO assault in nearby Helmand province, meant to force the Taliban from its stronghold in the towns of Marjah and Nad Ali.

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Canadian pilots and helicopters crews took part in a massive operation that swiftly dropped 1,100 troops into Nad Ali, while about 30 Canadian soldiers mentoring Afghan National Army troops were involved in a massive American-led assault on Marjah.

The air assault was the largest since the first Gulf War, and the largest Canada has ever participated in. It was the first major assault since U.S. President Barack Obama ordered 30,000 additional troops into Afghanistan. NATO forces hope to hold Marjah and Nad Ali long enough for the Afghan government and Afghan National Police to take control of the region, historically an insurgent hotspot.

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