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Canadian soldier dies in non-combat related incident

For the second time in a month a Canadian soldier has died of non-combat related injuries in Afghanistan.

It casts a shadow over the army and potentially raises more troubling questions about the trauma faced by returning veterans as the country's war comes to an end.

The highly-trained soldier, whose name was temporarily withheld at the request of the family, was found by fellow troops at a forward operating base located in Kandahar city early Saturday.

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No other particulars, including the age or hometown, were immediately released.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a statement offering condolences to the soldier's family.

"We are all saddened by this loss," the statement said.

There was speculation the soldier belonged to the highly-secretive, elite special forces - something the army would not confirm on Saturday.

News of the latest tragedy came from the Canadian headquarters in a short statement issued late Saturday night, local time.

Military police are investigating the circumstances surrounding the death, but "enemy action has been ruled out," the six-sentence release said.

Usually, the Canadian task force commander announces when soldiers have been killed, but Brigadier-General Dean Milner's statement was delayed until the family agrees to release more information.

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The death brings to 157 the number of Canadian troops who've died as a result of the Afghan mission since 2002.

It comes as the Canadian combat withdrawal from Kandahar hits full stride. A number of units have already pulled back to Kandahar Airfield and some members of the 1st Battalion Royal 22e Regiment battle group are already home with their families.

With enemy action ruled out, military police must determine whether it was foul play, an accident - or suicide.

No one within the military was speculating Saturday on what happened at the heavily fortified base, which has seen a lot of activity through the war.

If deemed a suicide, the death would mark the fifth Canadian soldier to have died under such circumstances while overseas and the second suspected suicide in the past month.

The body of Bombardier Karl Manning, a native of Chicoutimi, Que., was at a remote base amid the desolate hard scrub villages of western Panjwaii on May 28.

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He was near the end of his seven-month combat tour and his family disputed the suggestion that he ended his own life.

The most high-profile case of suicide involved Major Michelle Mendes, an intelligence officer who'd only been in theatre a short time when she was found dead in her room on April 25, 2009.

Her death put the military's career and mental health systems under close scrutiny.

Another officer assigned to NATO headquarters in Kabul committed suicide. A corporal with a military police detachment at Camp Mirage in Dubai was another case.

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