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3 Canadian special forces troops wounded in Afghan operations
14:27:16 EST Dec 7, 2005


OTTAWA (CP) - Three Canadian special forces soldiers have been wounded on operations in southern Afghanistan, the first known casualties within the highly secretive Joint Task Force 2 in the troubled southeast Asian country.

One member of JTF2 is being treated in hospital. The other special forces soldiers were treated for their injuries and have returned to their unit, the Defence Department said Wednesday. No names were released.

"For reasons of operational security and for the safety of those Canadian special operations forces members and their families, no other information on this incident or on the special operations being conducted in Afghanistan will be released," said a Defence Department statement.

The wounded Canadians are believed to have been part of major operations in which 22 suspected militants were killed in two clashes with Afghan and U.S.-led coalition forces this week.

The U.S. military said 13 enemy died in an attack on a cell believed responsible for several bombings in southern Afghanistan. Several regular-force Canadian soldiers have been slightly wounded in such bomb attacks.

American officials said several Afghan, U.S. and other coalition soldiers were wounded in fighting Sunday in a small village north of Kandahar, the former Taliban stronghold where the Canadians are now based.

On Tuesday, a joint Afghan-U.S. patrol was conducting offensive operations when it reported coming under fire from a ridgeline northwest of Tarin Kowt.

Air support was called in, and Afghan and U.S. forces then manoeuvred on the ridge line, forcing the militants to flee.

The head of defence operations confirmed in September that Canadian special forces troops have killed and captured Taliban and al-Qaida fighters in Afghanistan.

Brig.-Gen. Mike Ward wouldn't confirm numbers, but he said JTF2 had to that point been involved in multiple operations with U.S. and other coalition forces throughout Afghanistan.

Prisoners had been taken, questioned and turned over to U.S. or Afghan authorities with assurances they would be treated humanely and in accordance with elements of the Geneva Conventions.

JTF2 is involved in "important and dangerous missions," Ward said at the time.

"If we are going to keep the (enemy) at arms' length from these Afghani officials and protect them from murder and assassination . . . we have to engage in combat operations that take the offensive into the mountains, into the remote regions where they have their bases and their sanctuaries and keep them off-guard."

Ward added: "Casualties do occur. That's the nature of war; that's certainly the nature of operations."

The troops have the authority to use lethal force where necessary. And they had, indeed, used it, he said.

It was an unprecedented admission from a Canadian military commander. JTF2 operations are usually a closely guarded secret, especially when they are continuing.

Canadian troops hold detainees only long enough to process them and acquire any tactical - immediately valuable - intelligence before turning them over to appropriate U.S. or Afghan authorities, he said.

JTF2 has been in Afghanistan almost continuously since early 2002.

© The Canadian Press, 2005