Combat engineer 148th soldier to die in Afghanistan

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Photo: DOD

Sgt. James Patrick Macneil

The number of Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan since operations began in 2002 now stands at 148, with the death Monday morning of a soldier based in Petawawa, Ontario.

Sgt. James Patrick Macneil from the 2 Combat Engineer Regiment based in Petawawa died at approximately 8 a.m. Monday when an improvised explosive device detonated while he was on foot patrol about 20 kilometres west of Kandahar City in the Panjwa'i district.

"We are all thinking of the family and friends of our Canadian fallen comrade during this sad time," said a statement on the Canadian Forces website Monday afternoon. "The commitment and sacrifice of our military and their loved ones are helping to make a difference in the lives of the people of Kandahar Province."

MacNeil, 28, of Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, was engaged to be married.

MacNeil joined the military in 2000 and went to Afghanistan for the first time a year later.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper paid tribute to MacNeil and sent condolences to the soldier's family, friends and comrades. "May you be consoled by the knowledge that an entire country stands behind you in your grief," Harper said in a statement.

The prime minister said MacNeil "was a courageous, dedicated soldier who gave his life trying to help the Afghan people build a better future for themselves and their country."

Defence Minister Peter MacKay said MacNeil was "bringing hope to a population that has seen much hardship and turmoil. His death is a terrible loss for the Canadian Forces and all of Canada."

Governour General Michaelle Jean also issued a statement expressing "great sadness" over MacNeil's death.

"We shall forever be indebted to him for the tremendous perseverance, courage, heroism and generosity that he exhibited. We shall not forget him," Jean said.