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2,000 troops head home from Kabul

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN - The first of 2,000 Canadian soldiers are on their way home from a yearlong mission patrolling Kabul, while another 700 arrive to boost the NATO mission in Afghanistan.

In a ceremony Thursday at Camp Julien, the Canadian commander turned over responsibility for the city's devastated western sector to soldiers from Belgium, Norway and Hungary.

"I feel great," said Lt.-Col Stephane Roy. "It was a challenging mission and I feel great because it went well."

The Canadian contingent provided the breathing space needed for the United Nations and the transitional Afghan government to transform the country from a battleground into a peaceful, functioning democracy.

That mission has been accomplished, said Roy.

But Operation Athena had its sombre side.

Three Canadian soldiers died, one in a suicide-bomber ambush and two more when their jeep detonated a powerful landmine.

Over the course of the mission, Canadian soldiers patrolled the streets of Kabul's most dangerous neighbourhood in jeeps, in armoured vehicles and on foot, providing a new sense of freedom and security for Afghan citizens and merchants after the instability of the Taliban regime.

Shoe salesman Zaroo Akhemd, for one, was grateful.

"We are very happy," he told CBC News through an interpreter. "They are good protection for us."

As the main contingent leaves the country, another 700 Canadian troops are arriving to provide reconnaissance and intelligence support for the entire NATO group.

Written by CBC News Online staff

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