July 5, 2008 at 8:22 AM EDT
A Canadian soldier was found dead in the sleeping quarters at a support base on Friday, and the military has launched an investigation.
Corporal Brendan Anthony Downey, a military policeman from Dundurn, Saskatchewan, was serving at Camp Mirage at an undisclosed location in southwest Asia.
His body was discovered at 4:15 a.m. in an accommodation room for the Theatre Support Element, which serves as a link for moving staff and cargo between Canada and Afghanistan.
The military will examine the incident, but so far enemy action has been excluded as a possible cause of death. Few other details were released, and Cpl. Downey's family sent a request through the military asking for privacy.
“Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Corporal Downey during this difficult time,” a military statement said. “Our focus over the next number of days will be to provide the best possible support to the family of our airman and to his colleagues.”
Camp Mirage has served as a major supply post and staging base for Canadian warships and aircraft, and its location is widely known but officially secret. Rules for Canadian journalists embedded in Afghanistan forbid the publication of its whereabouts.
The Globe and Mail has previously reported that senior Canadian officials have a verbal agreement with leaders of the country that hosts the base, promising to keep quiet about its location.
A total of 86 Canadian soldiers and one diplomat have died in the Afghan mission. The largest number died in bombings, but at least four others were considered non-combat deaths. The body of Bombardier Jeremie Ouellet, 22, was discovered in an accommodation room at Kandahar Airfield on March 11.
Major Raymond Ruckpaul, 42, was found dead of a bullet wound at his Kabul sleeping quarters in August; his death was later ruled a suicide by the military's National Investigation Service.
Master Corporal Anthony Klumpenhouwer, 25, died after falling from a communications tower in April, 2007.
Corporal Kevin Megeney, 25, died in hospital last year after suffering a gunshot wound in his tent in March, 2007.
The overall number of Canadian deaths in the Afghan mission has been lower this year than last; 12 have died this year as compared with 22 as of the same date in 2007. The rate remains higher than 2006, however, when eight had died as of July 4.
Lower casualties among the Canadians are likely caused by a more cautious approach by the Canadian military in the last 12 months, as troops have pulled back from outlying districts and focused on protecting major population centres and hard-won positions in Zhari and Panjwai districts. Casualties among NATO forces in general have increased, as more foreign soldiers were killed in Afghanistan last month than in Iraq.