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Canada set to send tanks to Afghanistan -paper

Written by: Staff
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OTTAWA, Sep 11 (Reuters) Canada is preparing to send a squadron of 15 heavy Leopard tanks to Afghanistan to bolster protection for its troops against suicide bombers and Taliban militants, the Globe and Mail newspaper reported today.

The paper cited a military expert as saying the tanks -- part of the Lord Strathcona's Horse unit, based in the Western province of Alberta -- could be sent as early as next week. The expert attended the unit's operations meetings on Saturday.

Canada's 2,300-strong mission in the southern city of Kandahar has been involved in heavy recent fighting against the Taliban. The last three months alone have seen 16 soldiers killed, some when suicide bombers attacked their convoys.

No one from the defense ministry or the office of Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor was immediately available for comment.

The Ottawa Citizen newspaper on Saturday said up to 20 tanks and 300 personnel from the Lord Strathcona's Horse unit would be sent to Afghanistan.

''Although the tanks have been used once overseas on a peace support mission in Kosovo in the 1990s, this is the first time they will be sent into an actual combat situation,'' the paper said.

The 42-tonne tanks, armed with a 105 mm main gun, are much more heavily protected than the lighter armored vehicles Canada is currently using in Afghanistan.

REUTERS LL RAI2102

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