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Iginla visits troops in Afghanistan

by Staff Writer / Calgary Flames

Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla was returning home Monday from a surprise, whirlwind visit to Canadian troops in Afghanistan with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

While on the visit, Iginla played some ball hockey, attended a barbecue with troops and signed autographs.

Jarome Iginla meets troops in Afghanistan

"It was an honor and a privilege to be asked by the Prime Minister to be part of this trip to come and meet and spend time with our troops," Iginla told

"I met lots of guys from Alberta as well. There are lots of hockey fans and it was enjoyable to talk with all of them.

"Everyone has been watching the playoffs and it was cool to see the hockey rivalries among them.

"It was also very interesting as I toured headquarters and much of the base. It was truly an honor to spend time with our service men and women far from home."

It was a quick trip, but the Prime Minister, Defence Minister Peter MacKay, Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Walt Natynczyk, and TSN broadcaster Gord Miller managed to get in plenty of activity.

Among the acitivities on the visit to Kandahar:

-Tour of Boardwalk and Hockey Rink at KAF

-Ball Hockey Game with Troops and Civilians

-Task Force Kandahar Headquarters Tour

-Attended a wreath laying ceremony at the Task Force Kandahar Headquarters

-Attended the Prime Minister's speech to Canadian Troops and Civilians

-Attended a social bbq with the Troops and took photos and signed autographs

The prime minister capped his visit with a speech to more than 500 Canadian soldiers at Kandahar Airfield.

"You have been courageous warriors, so you are also compassionate neighbours," Harper told the troops.

"You have done exceptionally well. On behalf of all Canadians, I salute you."

Harper had spent the weekend in Greece following the G8 summit in France late last week.

During his visit, Harper was flown by helicopter to a forward operating base in the Panjwaii District. Harper also toured a former al Qaeda compound where Osama bin Laden spent some time in the 1990s. The site has been redeveloped, with the help of Canadian aid, into an agricultural area of wheat and barley fields known as Tarnack Farms.

The site is also where the first four Canadians to die in Afghanistan were killed by friendly fire in 2002.

Osama bin Laden can be seen at the compound in video footage, talking to recruits that include some of the hijackers who were part of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.

"The vicious Taliban regime bludgeoned its own citizens, but welcomed the world's worst killers -- men so immersed in their own evil that they believed their appalling ambitions to be nothing less than the will of God," Harper told the soldiers.

The prime minister also laid a wreath at a monument to fallen Canadians.

Harper told reporters that Canadian training personnel will not be out on the battlefield, but instead will conduct their work in classrooms.

But he conceded that violence is still a threat in Afghanistan.

"It is a violent and dangerous country," Harper said. "There can be attacks that come to the base and from within the base. Obviously we expect these things to be of a significantly lower risk than that we've experienced over the past several years."

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