Canada to investigate Afghan children deaths

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada will investigate why its troops opened fire on a car in southern Afghanistan, killing two small children, Defence Minister Peter MacKay said on Monday.

He noted, however, that earlier probes into similarcivilian deaths had always absolved the soldiers involved.

Military officials say a two-year-old boy and hisfour-year-old sister died when the troops blasted a carapproaching their convoy in Kandahar province on Sunday. Theysaid the driver had ignored several warnings to stop.

MacKay said Canadian soldiers were working in "tough,trying and intense circumstances" and often had to deal withattacks from Taliban militants hiding among civilians.

"When these tragic circumstances arise, we always take theimportant time to investigate what took place. There are rulesof engagement followed by Canadian, followed by NATO soldiers,"he told reporters in Ottawa.

"In each circumstance where this type of very unfortunatetragedy occurs, Canadians have been found to have followedthose rules of engagement," he said.

Canada has 2,500 soldiers based in Kandahar on a missionthat is due to end in 2011. So far 88 have died.

Speaking earlier in the day, MacKay said Canada would sendan extra 200 troops to Afghanistan to maintain and operateunmanned aerial surveillance vehicles and helicopters.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Frank McGurty)