KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — The ever-present perils of the Panjwaii claimed the life of another young Canadian soldier Thursday when his armoured vehicle struck a roadside bomb while returning from a mission to root out Taliban command centres and weapons caches.
Pte. Jonathan Couturier, 23, a member of 2nd Battalion, Royal 22e Regiment, based in Valcartier, Que., was killed when his vehicle detonated an improvised explosive device some 25 km southwest of Kandahar city.
The tragedy makes Couturier the 131st Canadian soldier to die as part of the Afghan mission since it began in 2002. Eleven others who suffered minor injuries in the blast were treated at the Role 3 Hospital at Kandahar Airfield and have since returned to duty.
“At the time of his death, Jonathan was returning from an operation designed to protect the population by removing insurgent command and control networks in the Panjwaii district,” said Brig. Gen. Jonathan Vance, the commander of Task Force Kandahar.
“This meant capturing weapons and IED caches and preventing the movement of insurgents and weaponry into areas where innocent civilians might be harmed.”
Despite the coalition’s best efforts, the Panjwaii district — the birthplace of the Taliban — remains something of a safe harbour for insurgents, with mud-walled compounds, grape orchards and vast marijuana and poppy fields that offer excellent enemy refuge.
It’s also been a scourge this past month for the storied Royal 22e Regiment, also known as the Van Doos,
On Sept. 6, Maj. Yannick Pepin, 36, of Victoriaville, Que., and Cpl. Jean-Francois Drouin, 31, born in Quebec City, were killed in roadside bomb blast southwest of Kandahar city. Their compatriot, Pte. Patrick Lormand, 21, died Sunday in roughly the same area.
Vance described Couturier as the “little brother” of certain members of his section, a soldier who never lost his ability to communicate his sense of humour, even at the most stressful of moments.
“He never missed an occasion to talk about his passions — hockey, his (Ford) Mustang and last but not least the love of his life — Andreanne,” Vance said.
Couturier, a member of the Canadian Forces for only three years, was known for being in great physical shape and very competitive.
He is the 13th soldier to die during the current rotation, and many of those have lost their lives to IEDs, the preferred weapon of the Taliban and an insidious torment to the efforts of both Canadian and NATO soldiers.