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Roadside bomb kills 4 Canadians in Afghan village

Published April 23, 2006

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - A roadside bomb killed four Canadian soldiers Saturday in the deadliest attack on that nation's troops since they deployed in Afghanistan four years ago, and commanders blamed loyalists of the former Taliban regime.

The blast came as Afghan President Hamid Karzai said "foreigners" are fomenting his country's insurgency. He didn't name any countries or groups.

Canadian officers said the bomb destroyed one of four armored vehicles in a convoy and killed its four occupants in Gomboth, a village about 25 miles north of the southern city of Kandahar, a former Taliban stronghold.

"We are pretty confident that it was the Taliban and we knew coming in here that they would be targeting us," Maj. Quentin Innis said.

A 2,200-soldier Canadian contingent moved into southern Afghanistan to relieve U.S. troops. Canada has had forces in the country since the U.S.-led offensive that toppled the Taliban at the end of 2001. At least 16 Canadians have been killed.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing, but Taliban militants have vowed to step up attacks on coalition and Afghan forces.

Rising violence is a growing concern for nations contributing troops to a force operating here under a NATO mandate. The force is to rise from its current 10,000 soldiers to about 21,000 by November as it gradually assumes command of all international troops in Afghanistan.

Some 6,000 mainly British, Canadian and Dutch soldiers have started deploying in the south, which abuts the mountainous frontier with Pakistan. The remote, tribal-dominated region is believed to be a haven for Taliban and al-Qaida extremists.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper sent condolences to the family and friends of the four slain soldiers.

"These men were working to bring security, democracy, self-sufficiency and prosperity to the Afghan people and to protect Canadians' national and collective security," Harper said. "We will not forget their selfless contribution to Canada."

While not referring to the bombing, Afghanistan's president accused foreigners of financing and arming local militants.

"You must be sure that this is not by Afghans, the killing of ... (innocent) people is by the enemy of Afghans. They are getting money, guns and conspiring through the encouragement of foreigners," Karzai said during a visit to Qalay-I-Naw in western Badghis province, some 250 miles north of Kandahar.

Karzai didn't single out any country or group, but he and other Afghan officials have repeatedly urged Pakistan's government to do more to stop Taliban and al-Qaida-linked militants from using Pakistani territory to stage attacks in Afghanistan.

Pakistan rejects claims it is not doing enough to catch terrorists in the region. It has deployed 80,000 soldiers along the border, but the 1,470-mile border is mountainous and hard to police.

[Last modified April 23, 2006, 00:51:05]

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