Accountant Martin Glazer had travelled several times in recent years to Afghanistan to audit Canadian aid programs, always assuring his employer and co-workers of the relative safety of the heavily fortified Kabul neighbourhoods in which he worked.
The 43-year-old from Gatineau, Que., and his colleague Peter McSheffrey, 49, of Ottawa, were killed Friday when a suicide bomber targeted a restaurant frequented by expatriates in the most deadly attack on foreign civilians since the Taliban was ousted in 2001.
Their family members will travel to CFB Trenton on Wednesday evening to meet and identify the bodies, Pierre Samson, founder of the accounting firm for which the men were working, said on Sunday. The firm, Samson and Associates, will cover that cost of the repatriation, estimated at $120,000.
The attack occurred at the popular Taverna du Liban restaurant, in a district that houses embassies of Belgium, Norway, Sweden and Britain. And it raises concerns that the Taliban may be shifting tactics as the United States and the government of Hamid Karzai attempt to reach agreement to leave a force of some 15,000 NATO troops – mainly U.S. military trainers – in the country.
"This was atypical in the sense that usually when you see a attack like this, the insurgency is going after a high-profile target," Graeme Smith, a former Globe and Mail correspondent in Afghanistan and now an analyst for the International Crisis Group in Kabul, said in an interview. "But it dawned on us that they weren't trying to hit anyone in particular. It was just an effort to sow terror and was quite effective at that."
Mr. Smith said the Taliban has been fragmenting into factions and can be expected to be increasingly aggressive as the U.S.-led NATO forces withdraw.
The Taverna du Liban attack killed 13 foreigners and eight Afghans, all of them civilians. Included among the dead was restaurant owner Kamal Hamade, a native of Lebanon whose establishment was considered a friendly oasis in a dangerous city.
After a meeting with President Hamid Karzai's national security council, the government claimed on the weekend that "an intelligence organization abroad" was behind the assault.
National Security Adviser Rangin Dadfar Spanta rejected the Taliban's claims of responsibility for Friday's killings, saying the attack in Kabul's heavily guarded diplomatic district was beyond the capacity of homegrown Afghan insurgents, The Wall Street Journal reported. He suggested Pakistani intelligence was behind it.
The two Canadians had arrived in Afghanistan less than a week before Friday's attack, and had intended to remain for another three to five days, Daniel Charron, a partner at Samson & Associates, said Sunday. It was Mr. McSheffrey's first visit to the war-torn country, but Mr. Glazer had been there on annual auditing trips over the past several years and felt Kabul was relatively safe.
"Martin took great pride in his work, and took pride in helping the other organizations bring peace in the world," he said. "We never thought that that type of thing could happen to an accountant."
Mr. Glazer – an avid mountain biker and cross-country skier – not only travelled to Afghanistan but to countries such as Kenya, Tanzania and Colombia on similar jobs.
Co-worker David Cleary was on an audit with him three years ago in Afghanistan, but was unwilling to risk returning to the country after his recent marriage. Mr. Glazer, who had a girlfriend but no children, never turned down the assignment.
"He never seemed to be afraid," Mr. Cleary said in an interview. "I wasn't too afraid when I was there, but you are always travelling in armour vehicles and you never walk on the street. … I'll go to a lot of countries but I had to draw the line somewhere and I drew it at Afghanistan."
Mr. McSheffrey had recently joined Samson and Associates. The married father of 16- and 14-year-old girls was also a world traveller who served as volunteer treasurer for SOS Children's Villages Canada charity.
"What makes this particularly difficult for the family is that Peter was a victim of senseless violence against innocent people," the family said in a statement posted on the firm's website. "Peter loved to travel and was doing meaningful work."