KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — A Canadian soldier travelling through a traditional hotbed of Taliban activity was killed Friday when his armoured vehicle struck a roadside bomb seconds after it was narrowly missed by the senior commander of coalition forces in Kandahar province.
Cpl. Nicholas Bulger, a 30-year-old father of two and member of 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, based in Edmonton, was in the vehicle directly behind that of Canadian Brig.-Gen. Jonathan Vance when the blast occurred.
Five other soldiers were hurt in the incident; Vance escaped unscathed.
“Despite his tough exterior, Nick had a big heart, which he lent to everyone in his life and which I had the honour to experience,” Vance said in a statement.
“Although this was his first overseas deployment, he always handled himself as a seasoned infantry soldier.”
The injured soldiers were reported in good condition.
Vance said Bulger, a family-oriented man from Peterborough, Ont., was destined for leadership training after joining the Canadian Forces in 2000.
As a “passionate” soldier, Bulger attacked every challenge head-on, Vance said. He is survived by his wife Rebeka and two daughters.
The general, who frequently travels the province with soldiers who act as his “close-protection” force, was in the western Zhari district, a known hotbed of insurgent activity about 60 kilometres west of Kandahar city. He was planning to visit with American troops who are under Canadian command.
Vance’s vehicle passed over the bomb, but the light armoured vehicle in which Bulger was travelling set it off about 15 metres behind.
The general said he knew immediately what had happened, and his military training immediately took over.
A second Canadian vehicle responding to the explosion also struck a similar device. There was no immediate indication that anyone was hurt in the second blast.
Bulger became the 121st Canadian soldier to die as part of the international mission to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan since Canada joined the effort in 2002.
Most recently, Cpl. Martin Dube died June 14 when an improvised device he was defusing exploded. A week earlier, Pte. Alexandre Peloquin died when he stepped on a dreaded improvised explosive.
Despite the tragedies, Vance said he believed the insurgency to be “in total disarray.”
Several people were detained following Friday’s IED strikes but it’s not known if they had anything to do with the blast.
“IEDs are the tools of cowards,” Vance said. “They’re indiscriminate and all too deadly.”
On Canada Day, Vance and his group were making the rounds of Canadian bases when they rode to the rescue of another convoy under escort by private security guards that was caught in an insurgent ambush.
Vance’s crew killed several insurgents in warding off the attack.