Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Special Forces Troops Involved in Two More Firefights with ISIL Fighters

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Special Forces Troops Involved in Two More Firefights with ISIL Fighters

Article excerpt

Canadian troops in more Iraqi firefights


OTTAWA - There have been two more firefights between Canadian special forces troops and militants in the Middle East -- clashes sure to fan the flames of a raging political debate about Canada's evolving combat mission in Iraq.

The elite troops were helping Kurdish commanders plan for an upcoming operation and twice came under direct fire while visiting the largely static front lines near Irbil, the military disclosed Monday.

In both cases the Canadian troops returned fire and "neutralized" the threats, navy Capt. Paul Forget told a weekly technical briefing at National Defence headquarters.

"They were acting in self defence," Forget said.

As the House of Commons resumed Monday, New Democrats launched a political volley of their own, calling on Speaker Andrew Scheer to convene an emergency debate on the "growing expansion of this mission."

During question period, both Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and NDP Leader Tom Mulcair accused the government of having misled the public when it promised there would be no ground combat for troops.

"How many gun battles, how many airstrikes, how many targets painted by our troops on the ground before the prime minister and this minister admit that our troops are in a combat mission?" Mulcair asked.

"Stop playing with words. Our troops deserve better."

The latest gun battles follow on the heels of an incident described last week by the commander of special forces, Brig.-Gen. Michael Rouleau, whose news conference helped to jump-start the dormant political debate in Ottawa.

Operations involving the highly trained soldiers, who were deployed to advise and assist Iraqi forces last September, are usually covered by a blanket of secrecy.

Rouleau acknowledged that his troops had on 13 occasions helped direct U.S-led coalition airstrikes to targets near the front line in what opposition parties are calling an escalation of Canada's combat involvement in Iraq.

Canadians have not directed any further bombing missions since the last update, the military said.

Forget, like Rouleau the week before him, insisted Monday that the nature of the operation was "evolving," and that special forces trainers were at the front to supervise Iraqis as they put their instruction to the test. …

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