In what could be a prelude to a summer of bloody combat, the 148th Canadian soldier to die in Afghanistan, Sgt. James MacNeil, 28, of Glace Bay, N.S., was killed by an improvised explosive device this morning about 15 km southwest of Kandahar city. It was the second deadliest day this year, as eight other NATO soldiers were killed in insurgent attacks and a helicopter crash. Adding to the grim tidings, the British government announced that 300 of its troops have now died in Afghanistan, following the death of a British soldier injured in an explosion earlier this month. In all, 64 NATO soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan this month, 284 the number this year. In 2009, 520 NATO troops died, the worst toll of the Afghan conflict. The U.S. military is warning that casualties will mount as they lead a push against the Taliban this summer in Kandahar, the heartland of the Islamist movement.