KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -
A Canadian soldier who was scheduled to conclude his deployment in southern Afghanistan in a few days has been killed by an improvised explosive device in a volatile region of the war-torn country.
Pte. Kevin McKay from the Edmonton-based 1st Battalion of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry died in an IED blast about 15 kilometres southwest of Kandahar city.
The 24-year-old native of Richmond Hill, Ont., was on a foot patrol in the Panjwaii district village of Nakhonay at 8 p.m. local time Thursday at the time of the explosion.
Col. Simon Hetherington, the deputy commander of Task Force Kandahar, said McKay embodied the gritty spirit of the typical Canadian soldier.
"He was the type of soldier that Canadians must think of when they think of their army in Afghanistan - the tough, courageous infantryman, living in austere conditions and doing incredibly difficult work," Hetherington said Friday.
"His platoon brothers and friends will remember Kevin, better known as 'Mickey' to his buddies, as a generous man, dependable, with a quick wit and a great sense of humour that was exemplified by his awesome moustache."
Hetherington spoke on behalf of Brig.-Gen. Dan Menard, who is on leave.
He said McKay was short in stature but had no trouble dishing it out to his bigger military comrades.
"While not a tall man, he had no difficulty in poking fun and taunting those less vertically challenged platoon mates," Hetherington said.
McKay is the sixth Canadian military member to die in Afghanistan this year and the 144th killed as part of the Afghan mission since it began in 2002.
Two civilians - diplomat Glyn Berry and journalist Michelle Lang - have also died.
The Canadian military didn't say whether anyone was injured in Thursday's blast as it no longer releases information on those wounded on the battlefield.
McKay's death comes as hundreds of people prepare to gather in Halifax to remember the first Canadian sailor to be killed in the Afghanistan conflict.
A memorial service will be held for 37-year-old Petty Officer (second class) Craig Blake, who was killed by an IED on May 3, also in the Panjwaii district.
The entire district, the cradle of the Taliban, has been a bloody battleground for Canadian troops since they arrived in the province of Kandahar in strength four years ago. Villages and towns have been repeatedly cleared, only to see the Taliban reassert itself by stealth.